Like the United States, China is grappling with a serious obesity epidemic, with nearly 25 percent of its adults considered overweight or obese, according to a study out today in Health Affairs. The rate of overweight adults in the country is predicted to double by 2028 without interventions to stem the growth rate. An increasingly Westernized diet and a decline in physical activity are seen as culprits.

A report on BBC today notes that while obesity has often been associated with China’s new affluence and more urban lifestyle, this new study finds that low-income Chinese in rural areas are more susceptible to becoming overweight. However, as USAToday notes, China still lags far behind the United States, where 66% of Americans are overweight.

Study author, Barry Popkin, a professor of nutrition at the Carolina Population Center at the University of North Carolina, told Health Affairs:

“What’s happening in China should be seen as a marker for what is going to hit the rest of the developing world if we fail to act. We need to find the right investments and regulations to encourage people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, or we risk facing higher rates of death, disease, and disability and the related costs.”

The study is part of the July/August 2008 Health Affairs issue released today on “China and India: Reform Goes Global,” published with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. BBC offers an interview with study author, Popkin.