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updated 3:36 AM UTC, Nov 18, 2017
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China’s Metabolism; Taking it Slow Amid Frenetic Change

Inside of each and every one of us, organisms, organ systems, organs, cells, and biomolecules carry out the chemical or physical functions that exist in a living system.

Our bodies can be understood in many different ways. On the one hand, we have the western model based on the physical systems that we can observe and understand. Then, there are Eastern models based on the flow of energy. What is interesting is when these models are held up together to see how they work.

Understanding what is going on physically or energetically in the body is necessary to truely live a full and happy life. When we have a sense of what is going on, we can start to be our own best counsel. Through knowledge of how our physical systems interact and can go awry, we can help ourselves to modify our daily schedules and get the most out of each day. This becomes all the more necessary with the increasing importance given to the individual in Western society, and placing the burden of accountability for ones successes and failures firmly on the shoulders of each person. In Eastern civilisations, the individual is not considered as important and there is a much more collective mindset at work.

In order to help understand the Eastern approach better, an understanding is needed of the basic Chinese concepts; those of a small universe living in a large universe, the duality of yin and yang; physiology in Chinese medicine (the state of equilibrium expressed by the five elements), the concept of maintaining and promoting health expressed by the circulation of chi; the therapeutic qualities of Chinese medicine (the balance of the body function) and, finally, the concept of preventive medicine.

From basketball to Taekwondo, from ice skating to table tennis, Chinese people participate in a variety of extracurricular activities to have healthy metabolic rates and simply for for recreation. Yet, compared with people in other countries, their metabolic rates are usually slow as they do not maintain their fitness levels.

A total of 1,029 Chinese from Hangzhou, China, and 207 caucasians from New York, NY, USA, were recruited for a study in which body composition was measured using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Analysis of covariance was used to assess the ethnic differences in fat, fat distribution and metabolic risk factors.

After adjusting for BMI, age, and height, Chinese men had an average of 3.9 percent more body fat and 12.1 percent more total fat than caucasian men; Chinese women had an average of 2.3 percent more body fat and 11.8 percent more total fat than caucasian women. Also compared with whites, higher metabolic risks were detected in Chinese for a given BMI after adjusting for age and height. Further adjustment for percentage of BF did not change the ethnic disparities while the study also exposed metabolic risks such as high cholesterol and blood pressure among Chinese people.

Another survey which was conducted in the United States proved that many Chinese often suffer from similar weight gain problems due to low metabolic activities. It appears that Asians may be more sensitive to being overweight than white or black Americans, where they develop many weight related diseases with a lower percentage of body fat.

Thus, Asian-Americans experience an increased risk for diabetes at a lower BMI of only 24 when compared to the Chinese people who have relatively high BMI, according to the American Diabetes Association. Moreover, the risk of cardiovascular disease, more prevalent among those who are overweight or obese, rises for Asian-Americans with BMIs of 19 or 20, a body mass index that would be regarded as “light” for other racial groups in America.

These studies do little to explain why there is a marked difference in the metabolisms of East and West. Were it to be found that individualism and collectivism be influencing factors, we would have made a giant leap in our understanding of not only how our bodies work, but also that of the intangible spirit of life itself.

 

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