The Start of Low Carb in China?

TheFatNurse was shopping for groceries in Chinatown here in the States when a Chinese magazine stood out in dramatic fashion:

Now…TheFatNurse has no idea what this article is saying since the only words TheFatNurse knows is the english “Low-Carb,” but doesn’t that look like a pro low carb article to you (For all TheFatNurse knows, this might be anti-low carb)? A blockade of letters on top of white rice – TheFatNurse is thinking this either means switch out to other lower carb options or…the Chinese have invented a low carb rice (is that even possible!?). Either way, if you follow, you’ll know that a large amount of Swedes are following a low carb high fat diet now…is a shift starting to begin in China as well?

The view on China is interesting since proponents against low carb diets often point to the Chinese as having a high carbohydrate diet based on rice while maintaining lower rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and etc. Is this really true tho?

“China was once considered to have one of the leanest populations,1 but it is fast catching up with the West in terms of the prevalence of overweight and obesity; disturbingly, this transition has occurred in a remarkably short time”

“…it is the rapid increase of the condition,4especially among children, that is particularly alarming.”

Source *TheFatNurse only read the abstract

“…results indicate that diabetes has become a major public health problem in China and that strategies aimed at the prevention and treatment of diabetes are needed.”

Source *TheFatNurse only read the abstract

“With 3 million deaths annually, cardiovascular disease is now the leading cause of death in China, according to the recently-released “2011 China’s Cardiovascular Disease Report.”


“The more common type of diabetes, type 2 diabetes, is rising sharply in China, and has
increased by 
30 percent in just seven years…”


I can only speculate to the cause, but with China continuing its rise in wealth their caloric consumption has increased to roughly 2970 calories, which is still lower than the average consumption here in the states of 3770 calories – however, with an increase in calories, it is important to ask where these calories are coming from. It is often argued and accepted as medical dogma that “a calorie is a calorie” but anyone who follows this blog or any of the blogs on TheFatNurse’s Dispatch link knows the research doesn’t show that to be the case. There are hormonal factors at play that are often unaccounted for in the “calories is a calorie” theory.

By believing in the “calorie is a calorie” theory, one could look at these increases in obesity, diabetes and heart disease as a problem of simply the Chinese eating more calories as a result of increasing prosperity and therefore they just need to eat less (sounds familiar don’t it?). For example, what if the the increase in calories is from carbohydrates? According to this study from the Harvard School of Public Health released last month *TheFatNurse only read the abstract:

“Higher consumption of white rice is associated with a significantly increased risk of type 2 diabetes, especially in Asian (Chinese and Japanese) populations.”

Of course a higher risk of type 2 diabetes would also be connected with higher rates of obesity and heart disease as well if you prescribe to the carbohydrate/insulin hypothesis.

Bottom Line: So does the consumption of rice in Asian populations show that low carbohydrate diets have no basis? Who knows, but the data is showing remarkable increases in heart disease, obesity and diabetes in China. By the way, TheFatNurse has no idea what the average Chinese person eats, the view that Chinese people eat rice rice and rice seems very…archaic…in its view. The rise of popularity in western foods (especially fast foods) does indeed bring increases in fat but more in carbohydrates such as sweets, sodas and refined starches.

The important thing is to be open to the possibility that carbohydrates may play a factor instead of jumping to the same old ideas of fat consumption, sedentary lifestyle and etc like this article seems to do about China. Notice how that article points out high fat intake and western fast food but doesn’t make the connection that there is a lot more carbs in a burger, fries and soda than fat? Has the advice centered on these ideas worked in the states? No (well except for the stop smoking part). Why would they work in China?


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