A group posing as a health organization but funded by Coca-Cola and other fast food and beverage companies has tried to undermine the Chinese government's anti-obesity efforts, a new document says.
As the Chinese middle class grows and its citizens experience the good life, their waists have also expanded. 42% of the Chinese population is overweight and 11% is obese. Meanwhile, Western fast food chains set up franchises at a dizzying pace. McDonald's plans to have 4,500 restaurants in China by 2022, adding about 1,000 points a year. KFC – China's most popular fast food restaurant – already has 5,000 stores and plans to continue expanding.
The Chinese government noted the protrusion and announced a public health plan, "Healthy China 2030" two years ago. Among the recommendations of the plan are a national information campaign to educate the population about the importance of a balanced and healthy diet.
Behind the scenes, the western fast food giants were already working hard to deflect the blame from themselves. The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), created in 1978 by a former Coca executive, organized conferences on obesity in China, where speakers emphasized the importance of physical activity in combating obesity and minimized the role of diet. week by the British Medical Journal (BMJ).
Although Coca-Cola provides most of ILSI's funding, its other contributors are a gallery of junk food vendors and sugar merchants. McDonalds, Nestlé and Pepsi finance ILSI, and the organization's Chinese branch has close ties with the Chinese government, the paper said.
In fact, several of the government's anti-obesity initiatives appear to have been directly influenced by ILSI. "Happy 10 Minutes" – a government exercise program that sought to avoid obesity, giving Chinese students an extra ten-minute break every day – was developed and partially funded by ILSI.
Likewise, the government's "Healthy Lifestyle for All" campaign was praised by ILSI funders as its favorite type of public health campaign.
More ridiculously, ILSI sponsored conferences promoting the health benefits of processed foods, according to the BMJ report. Danone Biscuit supported a 2004 symposium on the effects of dietary fat, while a Coca Cola spokeswoman gave a presentation on "the importance of water as a nutrient," noting that her company's drink contains seven teaspoons of sugar. by can – is "a good source of water".
Although the idea may seem laughable, especially at a conference on obesity, ILSI was able to promote its ideas partly because of the perception among Chinese authorities that Chinese medicine and nutrition science were lagging behind the West . Claims from the BMJ report. As a Western organization, ILSI was automatically considered credible and, since its opening in China in 1999, it has quickly become "a bridge builder between government, academia and industry."
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The organization responded to the BMJ report with an admission: "ILSI does not claim to have been perfect in our 40-year history," he said. "Not surprisingly, there have been bumps along the way." The organization said it fired several of its "experts" mentioned in the BMJ article, but the Chinese government is still struggling to keep in control of its growing obesity problem.
The country now has more obese citizens than the US, although the US still "wins" the percentage play, with 39% of obese adults and 31% overweight. In an age of increasing competition between the two countries, Chinese lawmakers may need to take stronger measures to reduce their population before they get too fat to compete on the sports field or on the battlefield.