London, Mar 29: Japan has introduced mandatory ''fat checks'' for people over 40 years of age. Aimed at trimming bulging annual health costs of more than 3 billion dollars, the Health Ministry said from next month, 56 million people must start keeping waistlines tucked in or be asked to change diet, see a doctor and possibly pay higher insurance costs.
The plan sets a waist limit of 85 cm (34 in) for men and 90 cm for women, the Independent reported. However, critics said the plan will do more harm than good. ''It's a comedy. If you follow the government's logic, you can do whatever you want as long as you have a slim waist,'' Prof Yoichi Ogushi said. Japan is struggling with a recent rise in lifestyle illnesses, especially among the middle-aged, linked to a widespread shift from the traditional Japanese diet based around fish, rice and vegetables, and including little red meat, dairy and processed foods towards a more modern, Western diet.
The Health Ministry said 27 million people now either suffer from, or are at risk of, high blood pressure, blood sugars and cholesterol, collectively known as metabolic syndrome. ''We have to bring medical costs down,'' said Toshi-yuki Sato, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare.
He denied that the plan would encourage crash-dieting and pill-popping, saying, ''Dieting badly will eventually cause medical costs to rise even more, so we hope the metabolic tests will be properly supervised.''