Obesity rates in China are soaring as citizens of the newly wealthy nation find themselves with more disposable income, Sky News reported Thursday.

According to official statistics, there are now nearly 100 million obese citizens in traditionally-slim China.

As a proportion of China's population, that number is still low compared to many Western countries. More worrying, however, are predictions that the ranks of China's obese citizens could double within just five years.

Unlike in Europe and North America, where weight problems are often associated with poverty, Chinese waistlines are expanding as a direct result of newfound wealth.

"In the last 30 years they've gone from famine to feast in just two generations," explained British economist Paul French, who is soon to publish a book on China's rapid weight gain.

"Availability and accessibility of food are both widespread now. People have more money, and they're just eating more of anything."

China's one-child policy has exacerbated the problem among the country's young people. Between 1985 and 2000 the rate of obesity in children jumped nearly 30-fold.

"One child has mom, dad and two sets of grandparents," French said. "It's what we call the six-pocket syndrome. All of that money is being lavished on one little emperor to whom nobody can say no. And it's leading to a rising rate of obesity amongst children."

Xiao Yuan, 29, has been a patient at the country's preeminent weight loss hospital for two months, and has already shed 66 pounds. But she is still only halfway to her target weight of 220 pounds.

"Someone like me is never going to be slim," she said. "But I'd like to lose the weight to prevent future health problems. Also, I'm about the right age to get married, and I'd like to meet a man."

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