Obesity, a plague on the advanced Western world, is also a major problem in the dynamic economies of the Far East, particularly in the Republic of China, or ROC, and Taiwan.
The numbers are quite stark.
Wang Yu-min, an official with Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, warned the Taiwan Today newspaper that about one-fourth of the nation’s elementary and junior high school students are already overweight, suggesting they are in great danger of becoming obese as adults.
In response, the Taipei government may enact laws to restrict the advertising of fast food on children’s television programs -- a government survey indicated that the average child watched more than 8,000 fast food commercials on TV annually -- as well as establish a national nutrition law to encourage healthy eating and lifestyles.
For some Taiwanese adults, it may already be too late, although the government launched a weight-loss program about two years ago in response to the alarming rise in obesity rates in the country.
"Half of adult men and a third of adult women [in Taiwan] are overweight or obese,” Shu-Ti Chiu, director-general of the government's Bureau of Health Promotion, told the BBC.
“Eight out of the 10 leading causes of death in Taiwan are associated with obesity. ... The government in Taiwan recognized the importance of this issue ... and then we mobilized the whole society to do it together."
On the whole, 44 percent of adults in Taiwan are overweight or obese, higher than in neighboring Asian countries (in Japan, for example, less than 4 percent are overweight). Chiu warned last year that Taiwan’s people are even fatter than other Asian nations with their own growing obesity problem, including Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea, Thailand and China.
Calling Taiwan a “fat country,” Chiu told the Taipei Times newspaper: “Although Taiwan did better than the West, the country should still be worried, because obesity is one of the risk factors for noncommunicable diseases.”
Part of the problem in Taiwan is declining rates of exercise compounded by a diet loaded with sugar and fat -- such “delicacies” as fried chicken patties, deep-fried seafood, sausages and fried vegetables are popular items, the BBC noted.
Chiu said that 68 percent of Taiwanese men and 79 percent of women do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per week.
Taiwanese officials are viewing the growing epidemic as a national health issue, citing, among other things, that one-tenth of total health care spending is related to obesity.
Consequently, some schools and companies across the country have implemented health and exercise sessions.
“Our goal is to double the prevalence of adequate physical activity by 2020,” Chiu said.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.