Having adopted the American diet, the Chinese now are seeking help from American endocrinologists on ways to manage the negative byproducts of that diet: obesity and diabetes.
A delegation of some two dozen Chinese endocrinologists is here at the annual meeting of the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists (AACE) to learn tips and tricks on taming the growing metabolic epidemics spreading across their country.
“In 2010, the prevalence of diabetes in China was nearly 10%,” said Guo Xiaohui, MD, from Peking University First Hospital, during a press briefing. “More striking is that 64% of those with diabetes are undiagnosed.”
According to the World Health Organization, the overall percentage of obesity among the Chinese is nearly 6%, but can be as high as 20% in some cities, Xiaohui said.
When asked if the Western diet is partly responsible for the increase in diabetes and obesity, he said, “More specifically, the American diet.”
The Chinese people are eating more food per serving, have more money to buy and eat food — particularly junk food — when they’re not hungry, and engage in less physical activity, Xiaohui said.
He said that many people still eat a traditional Chinese meal, but along with rice and veggies will be more meat, and portions will be bigger as well. In addition, fast-food restaurants such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and McDonald’s are enjoying success at the price of a growing obesity epidemic among children and teens, he said.
One promising initiative is a new network of primary care physicians across the country. These physicians have received training to better deal with diabetes patients. The initiative is mostly focused on rural physicians, whose knowledge of diabetes is lacking.
“The grassroots program trains doctors in the countryside how to diagnose, treat, and manage patients with diabetes,” said Guang Ning, MD, president of the Chinese Society of Endocrinology, at the press conference. “It also teaches them how to properly inject insulin and how to better educate patients to take care of themselves.”
“Perhaps we in the U.S. can also learn from the Chinese,” said Yehuda Handelsman, MD, outgoing president of AACE. “They are to be congratulated for taking a national approach to address this epidemic of diabetes.”
Handelsman and Zachary Bloomgarden, MD, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, have been traveling to China the last several years, and it was through their friendship with Ning that the present group of Chinese endocrinologists ended up coming to this meeting to exchange ideas.
A second, related program in China is aimed at educating rural physicians about thyroid disorders, which also are increasing in number, Xiaohui said.
There are six central hospitals in different areas of China where physicians can come for training.
“Unfortunately, the level of knowledge about thyroid disorders among doctors in the countryside is even less than that of diabetes,” Xiaohui said.
“We want to establish a system for fundamental medical care, especially in the countryside, to help improve the health of our country,” he said.
The Chinese delegates are particularly interested in learning about clinical best practices, including guidelines and recommendations for practice.
By Chris Kaiser, Cardiology Editor, MedPage Today