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By Sam Beattie
Tianjin, China
06 January 2009

Fatty foods, increased use of automobiles and a drop off in cycling all have contributed to some unwelcome side effects in China. The latest government figures, from 2002, show roughly one fifth of the population is either overweight or obese.

He Yifan tries an Eastern cure for a condition largely imported from the West - obesity.

Acupuncture is said to improve the body's energy flow by unblocking neuronal pathways. And the technique also is thought to help release endorphins which help control the appetite.

He weighed 157 kilograms [345 lbs] when he arrived at this weight loss clinic two months ago. He says he lived an indulgent lifestyle at university and packed on the weight. Now he's graduated, he says its time to shed the kilos and fight off obesity.

"My friends made fun of me for being fat sometimes," He said. "But this is more about myself. It's hard to find a job, and its not good for my health."

Around one in five people are overweight or obese in China - more than 250 million people. It's an unwelcome side effect of the country's rapid economic development which has created a more sedentary lifestyle for many.

Dr. Hans Troedsson
Dr. Hans Troedsson

World Health Organization's China representative, Dr. Hans Troedsson agrees. "With unhealthy diets and less physical exercise, it creates this almost boom of obesity that we see in China today," Troedsson said.

The staff at the Aimin Weightloss Clinic keeps a close eye on exercise and diet. They teach He to eat less fatty foods and more regulated portions.

"When I first came I was really hungry, but after a couple of weeks I got used to it. Now I eat less than the others because I have higher expectations for myself, and I want to lose weight faster," he said.

With diabetes and hypertension on the rise, the WHO warns lifestyle diseases are becoming a major issue for this nation's healthcare system.

China's health officials say they want more people to follow in He's steps and shape up. If not, they fear millions of people will develop long term health problems, costing China billions of dollars and reversing some of the country's economic gains of the last three decades.

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