China has developed a taste for meat. The country known for rice and noodle dishes has seen a massive increase in meat consumption in recent decades—more than doubling since 1990. Pork consumption rose 400 percent from the early 1990s through 2007. Today, more than half of the world’s pigs are eaten in China. McDonald’s plans to open a restaurant every day in China through 2015.
A similar phenomenon is occurring in traditionally vegetarian India, where chicken sales are skyrocketing and cheese consumption is increasing 15 to 20 percent every year. Pizza Hut signs are cropping up all over, as young people abandon traditional diets in favor of meat and cheese.
Western Diets, Western Diseases
As food industry profits soar, so do disease rates. In Japan, type 2 diabetes prevalence rose from less than 5 percent of the over-40 population in 1980 to 11 to 12 percent just 10 years later. The disease now affects close to 10 percent of people in China, where nearly 40 percent of the population is now overweight, according to the World Health Organization.
Diabetes has become a smoldering disaster in India, the second-most-populous nation. As traditional lentils, vegetables, rice, and breads give way to McChicken and KFC’s Tower-Zinger, a fried chicken sandwich with layers of cheese, more than 50 million Indians now struggle with diabetes, more than in any other country. All forecasts indicate that problem will only worsen.
Fast-food chains have not forgotten their Western Hemisphere base and are now aggressively targeting Spanish-speaking customers. Traditional Latin American cuisine features beans, corn, vegetables like squash and peppers, and fruits like mangoes and papaya. But second- and third-generation Mexican-American youth consume less fruit, vegetables, grains, and beans, compared with first-generation Mexican-American youth, according to a new study in the Journal of Nutrition. And second-generation Mexican-American youth are 2.5 times more likely to be obese than first-generation youth.
A Healthful Remedy
To help people return to traditional fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, PCRM is launching international versions of its 21-Day Vegan Kickstart, the online program that has already helped hundreds of thousands of North Americans test-drive a vegan diet.
Kickstart China launched March 5, offering a Chinese-language program for people in China, Taiwan, and around the world. The 21-day online program includes daily e-mail messages, with menus, recipes, and videos from celebrity coaches including actress Gao Yuanyuan, China Study author T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D., longtime PCRM friend Maggie Q, and many others. The carefully tested recipes include meat- and dairy-free versions of traditional favorites, such as vegan spring rolls, brown rice sushi, and ma po tofu. Participants can share their successes, challenges, and questions on a special message board.
The China program comes on the heels of Kickstart India, which launched in November with healthful vegan versions of traditional recipes like carrot halwa and palak paneer. If taking a vegetarian message to India sounds like shipping peaches to Georgia, the program attracted thousands of participants and featured Bollywood stars Celina Jaitly, Jackie Shroff, and many others as celebrity coaches.
PCRM’s Spanish-language Kickstart will debut in October, featuring a new lineup of recipes, webcasts, and celebrities including Mexican TV host and game show personality Marco Regil. Joaquin Carral, M.D., a Mexican-American physician who lives in New York City and follows a vegan diet, will also help with the program.