China toddler fights fat in land of little emperors

Fri Apr 1, 2011 8:49am EDT
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By Gary Ling and Stefanie McIntyre

GUANGZHOU, China (Reuters) - In a sleepy riverside village in Southern China, three-year-old Lu Zhihao tears around his home; his belly, arms and legs wobbling with fat as he stuffs a pear into his mouth.

"I want to be superman," said the toddler, a typically cheeky kid, but one scaling in at over 60 kg (132.3 lb), around five times the weight of an average boy his age.

With puffed cheeks puckering up his eyes and mouth, folds of flesh like a miniature Michelin man and heavily bowed legs, the one-meter (yard) tall toddler's condition is suspected to be partly the result of a hormone imbalance given his height.

His loud and frequent demands for food, however, are often met by his accommodating parents and a constant stream of visitors to their lively courtyard home.

"Yum, yum, yum, yum. I like to eat fish," he said, grinning with his mouth full at dinner time as he wolfed down several bowls of rice and steamed fish.

With China's coastal cities booming amid rampant urbanization and industrialization, a new, more affluent generation of middle class families have been raising more and more pampered children like Lu Zhihao, bringing a growing blight of obesity to Chinese society.

"Little more than 20 years ago many people, even in China's richest cities, were struggling to feed themselves; now they are struggling to lose weight," wrote Paul French and Matthew Crabbe in their recent book "Fat China: How expanding waistlines are Changing a Nation."

"The combination of rising incomes, greater longevity and the one-child policy meant that the "six pocket" phenomenon appeared with each child having richer parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles - all keen to spoil them."   Continued...

<p>Lu Zhihao, 4, kicks a ball at a basketball court in Foshan, Guangdong province March 28, 2011. REUTERS/Joe Tan</p>