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Monday 24th October 2016

Japan's compulsory fat checks

31st March 2008

Japan's health ministry has issued a stringent new set of guidelines aimed at keeping people thinner, as the nation begins to put on more weight than ever before.


Japan's annual healthcare budget is currently around $3 billion (£1.5bn), and officials are hoping to cut costs by targeting around 56 million middle-aged people who they say must strive to maintain a healthy waistline.

Man with a waist measurement more than 85 cm (34 inches) and women whose waistlines expand beyond 90 cm will be asked to change their eating habits and possibly visit a doctor to help them lose weight.

Those who refuse may have to pay higher health insurance premiums.

The move has been widely criticised for targeting fatter people in a country where obesity levels are still nowhere near the levels found in Western developed countries.

Japan is nonetheless struggling to contain a recent rise in high blood pressure, insulin resistance and cholesterol, known as metabolic syndrome, or metabo in Japanese.

The middle-aged are particularly hard-hit, with all men now 10% heavier than they were a decade ago, and half of men aged 40-74 showing signs of metabo.

The average woman's weight has increased by 6.4% in 10 years, and 27 million people now either suffer from, or are at risk of, developing metabolic syndrome.

A plethora of new products and services is beginning to hit the healthcare market aimed at obesity, overweight and metabolic syndrome; this sector could soon be worth 100 billion yen, experts say.

Among the new fitness crazes are a bucking-bronco style exercise machine called the Joba, and a £20,000 Metabology Diet System, a futuristic contraption that uses electric currents and steam.

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