The world’s largest food exporter is also home to the world’s second-largest population of people who are overweight or obese, and it is one of the worlds most populous countries.
But it also has the third-largest obesity rate in the world, and the fourth-highest rate of diabetes and hypertension, and is also one of three countries in the Asia Pacific region with a diet high in processed foods.
And this week, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin have published a paper showing how people can be healthier with a high-protein diet in China.
“The high-quality food that we consume in China is high in protein,” said Professor John Fennell, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, who led the study.
“It’s a very high quality food.”
Professor Fennells study focused on Chinese students who were randomly assigned to either a protein-rich diet or a high carbohydrate-rich one.
The students were then followed for four months, and he and his team found that the protein-high students were less likely to have any chronic illnesses, such as high blood pressure, and were less prone to developing diabetes.
“This is a study that has a very good and large impact on what we know about the health benefits of a high protein diet in general, and in particular, what might be associated with this high rate of obesity in China,” he said.
“There is not enough data about how the high protein intake affects other aspects of the population, so this is one area where it’s really good to look at this.”
While the study focused mainly on Chinese university students, Professor Fennels team also looked at the results of a survey carried out in a number of Western countries in which the average Chinese person is obese.
Professor Federick said that he was interested in the implications of this study because it would be useful to compare the results from the two countries.
“The people in the Western countries are more likely to get diabetes and the people in China are less likely, which is not necessarily good news,” he explained.
“So we wanted to see if there was any relationship with how the Chinese people ate their food.”
But the findings are not the only link between eating high protein and being healthier.
Professor Federicks team found a link between a high intake of red meat and a high prevalence of coronary heart disease, while the amount of saturated fat in people’s diets was associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
“When we talk about high fat consumption, we don’t talk about people eating a lot of saturated fats, we talk more about people with higher intake of cholesterol and higher intake that are overweight,” he told ABC News.
The research has also revealed a link with diabetes, but not to the same extent as it did with obesity.
“It’s not the case that people who have diabetes are more obese,” he added.
“We found that diabetes is associated with eating high-fat diets.”
Professor John Fettenell is an epidemiologist at the University’s Institute for Food, Nutrition and Health at the U of T. He said that his study, which focused on people aged between 25 and 34, was the first to examine the association between the amount and type of protein in a high consumption of animal foods.
“Our data shows that people with diabetes are much more likely than those without to have high intake in protein and high intake that is associated [with] diabetes,” he observed.
Professor Fettleons findings, which were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, suggested that it might be possible to reduce diabetes risk by cutting out animal protein altogether.
“I think this is a very important study,” he concluded.
“If we can find ways to reduce the amount [of protein] in people, then that would be very beneficial.”
Professor Thomas Wiedenfeld is a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Australian National University.
He is the director of the Institute of Health Metric and Evaluation.
Dr Wiedes research also focuses on the effects of a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables.
“For the Chinese, fruits and vegetables are a big part of their diet, they are part of the daily routine, and a lot depends on the quality of the food,” he stated.
“But I think the results [of this study] indicate that in China, a diet of fresh fruit is not so healthy.”
Even if we did eat fresh fruit, it is still not really healthy.
So we are seeing a lot more processed foods in China.
“Dr Wiesenfeld said that the findings could help health officials in China decide which foods are the best choices for Chinese people.”
One of the things we are doing here is to look into the consumption patterns of people in rural areas, so that we can understand what they eat, what they are trying to do with their health,” he noted.”