Obesity is on the rise in China as increasingly affluent Chinese devour richer foods at the risk of high blood pressure and heart disease, a national survey showed Thursday.

Results of the two-year probe also revealed malnutrition is still a major problem in underdeveloped and economically backward rural areas and in some urban regions as well."There is still a sharp gap between the urban and rural areas," according to an analysis in the official China Education Daily.

"The quality of diets in underdeveloped areas is far from satisfactory," the account said, "but too much fat consumption has also led to unbalanced nutrition and chronic diseases" in the cities.

On the positive side, the survey showed more Chinese are consuming nutritionally balanced meals, and children are growing taller - but not tall enough.

He Jiesheng, vice-minister of public health, said the drafting of a national action plan is under way to improve nutrition and promote health in the world's most populous nation.

The survey, jointly conducted by the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Public Security and State Statistics Bureau, sampled 99,000 people in 29 provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, the account said.

Nutritional strides have not kept pace with the dizzying economic developments, with 9 percent of urban dwellers and 8 percent of rural Chinese suffering from various malnutrition-related illnesses.

Youngsters are failing to reach adequate heights outside of the booming cities of Beijing and Shanghai, the account said, and a "large proportion" are too thin compared with international standards.

"Both the height and weight of rural children are lower than their urban counterparts," the survey found.

Children under 3 years old have a higher rate of anemia, afflicting 11 percent to 22 percent of the city youngsters and 16 to 29 percent of those in rural areas.