Rising affluence has made about 60 million Chinese — equal to the population of France — obese, state media said on Monday.

Xinhua News Agency quoted Pan Beilei, a deputy director with the government-affiliated State Food and Nutrition Consultant Committee, as saying that worsening diets had led to health problems, including obesity.

"An increasing number of Chinese are eating more fat and junk food but less grains and vegetables, leading to a high number of cases of high blood pressure and diabetes," Pan was quoted as telling a conference on food consumption and health in Beijing.

Pan said a widening wealth gap meant that the increase in the number of obese people came as 24 million people in China still live in abject poverty and suffer malnutrition.

Narrowing the regional income gap will help improve the diet of people in poverty-stricken areas, Pan said.

Because of the poor eating habits, according to Ministry of Health statistics, last year 160 million Chinese had high blood pressure, up from 90 million in 1991, and 20 million had diabetes.