Shanghai, China

The Shanghai team is led by Dr. Xu Lin, and is based at the Institute for Nutritional Sciences, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The study in Shanghai was the first project of the GNET group, and more information can be found in this 2009 article from the Harvard Public Health Review.


China at a Glance

Capital: Beijing

Area: 9,596,961 sq km
Population: 1,355,692,576
Median age: total 36.7 years
Urban population: 50.6% of total population
Life expectancy: male 73.09 yr ; female 77.43 yr
Per Capita GDP: $9,800

Language:   Standard Chinese or Mandarin (Putonghua, based on the Beijing dialect), Yue (Cantonese), Wu (Shanghainese), Minbei (Fuzhou), Minnan (Hokkien-Taiwanese), Xiang, Gan, Hakka dialects, and other minority languages.

Location:   Eastern Asia, bordering the East China Sea, Korea Bay, Yellow Sea, and South China Sea, between North Korea and Vietnam.

Agriculture:   World leader in gross value of agricultural output; rice, wheat, potatoes, corn, peanuts, tea, millet, barley, apples, cotton, oilseed; pork; fish

Diet and culture:  Throughout its history, China’s growing population has been difficult to feed. The Chinese constantly had to adapt new eating habits because of the scarcity of food. Meat was scarce, so dishes were created using small amounts of meat mixed with rice or noodles, both of which were more plentiful. Vegetables were added, and stir-frying, the most common method of cooking, became a way to conserve fuel by cooking food quickly.

Rice is China’s staple food. The Chinese word for rice is “fan” which also means “meal.” Rice may be served with any meal, and is eaten several times a day. Scallions, bean sprouts, cabbage, and gingerroot are other traditional foods. Soybean curd, called tofu, is an important source of protein for the Chinese. Although the Chinese generally do not eat a lot of meat, pork and chicken are the most commonly eaten meats. Vegetables play a central role in Chinese cooking, too.

There are four main regional types of Chinese cooking. The cooking of Canton province in the south is called Cantonese cooking. It features rice and lightly seasoned stir-fried dishes. Typical Cantonese dishes are wonton soup, egg rolls, and sweet and sour pork.

The Mandarin cuisine, province in northern China, features dishes made with wheat flour, such as noodles, dumplings, and thin pancakes. The best known dish from this region is Peking duck, a dish made up of roast duck and strips of crispy duck skin wrapped in thin pancakes.

Shanghai cooking, from China’s east coast, emphasizes seafood and strong-flavored sauces.

The cuisine of the Szechuan province in inland China is known for its hot and spicy dishes made with hot peppers, garlic, onions, and leeks.

Tea, the beverage offered at most meals, is China’s national beverage. The most popular types of tea-green, black, and oolong-are commonly drunk plain, without milk or sugar added. Teacups have no handles or saucers.



Vasanti Malik with personnel  at study site in Shanghai, China

Steam box for cooking rice

Cooked brown rice

Digital scale provided to participants


Distributing rice at the study site