Research Highlights

Nutrition: How eating vegetables can be bad for you

Subject Categories: Clinical medicine

Published online 19 March 2008


A vegetable-rich diet has been linked to a higher risk of obesity in Chinese people

Felix Cheung

© (2008)ål Espen Olsen

A diet high in vegetables has always been considered as a key component to good health and staying slim. However, nutritionists are becoming increasingly aware that the quantity consumed and the preparation technique can negate or even reverse any positive effects of eating vegetables. An international team of researchers led by Zumin Shi at Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Nanjing, China, and the University of Newcastle in Australia1 has found that although Chinese people eat a lot of vegetables, the amount of oil used in cooking vegetables is increasing the risk of becoming obese.

In 2002, the researchers randomly selected 2,849 men and women aged 20 years and over in Jiangsu province — an economically booming area in China — to undertake a questionnaire about their food patterns, sociodemographic factors, medical history and lifestyle. The participants' height, weight and waist circumference were also measured.

Of all those surveyed, 8.0% of men and 12.7% of women were generally obese (had a very high body mass index), and 19.5% of men and 38.2% of women were centrally obese (had a large waist size). Through statistical analysis of the participants' food patterns, the researchers found that a higher vegetable intake was strongly associated with a higher vegetable oil and energy intake. After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, a vegetable-rich diet was independently linked to a higher risk of obesity.

Most Chinese people love stir-frying their vegetables, and the country's booming economy means they can add oil to their cooking more generously than ever before. This finding does not undermine the benefits of eating vegetables, but rather reminds people how a healthy food can turn unhealthy if not prepared appropriately.

* Corrected: An error in the last paragraph of this highlight was corrected.

The authors of this work are from:
Department of Nutrition and Food Hygiene, Jiangsu Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Nanjing, China; Research Center for Gender, Health and Ageing, Hunter Medical Research Institute, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia; Department of Health Promotion and Chronic Diseases Prevention, National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland; Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland; Section of Preventive Medicine and Epidemiology, Institute of General Practice and Community Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway.


  1. Shi, Z. et al. Vegetable-rich food pattern is related to obesity in China. Int. J. Obes. 10.1038/ijo.2008.21 (2008). | Article |