Only two of 53 European nations are fatter than Britain, a report reveals today.
The UN study found that two in three of us are overweight and one in four is obese.
It blamed the crisis on lack of exercise, poor diet and heavy drinking. Campaigners said the figures were frightening and warned that deaths from diabetes and heart disease could spiral without urgent action.
Our obesity rate of 28 per cent is beaten only by Turkey, with 32 per cent, and Malta at 29 per cent. The European average is 23 per cent.
Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) score of more than 30. A tally higher than 25 is seen as overweight.
Our obesity rate of 28 per cent is beaten only by Turkey, with 32 per cent, and Malta at 29 per cent. The European average is 23 per cent
‘The Government has to work and quickly if the UK is to avoid shortly becoming the fattest nation on Earth,’ said Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum.
‘It is frightening that there are millions of children whose current obesity will doom them to die before their parents.’
He said it was now accepted that adults died early ‘not only because of being overweight but because of the co-morbidities they have triggered by their obesity’.
Britain was fourth worst – with a 64 per cent rate – when it came to measuring how many adults were overweight.
Experts said Britain had such a weight problem in part because of the heavy influence of the US
Obesity is known to raise the risk of Type 2 ‘lifestyle’ diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia, joint and back problems and cancer.
Data from Public Health England shows that 34 per cent of children are overweight and 10 per cent are obese when they leave primary school.
The research from the World Health Organisation, an arm of the UN, covered 53 countries, including former Soviet nations it considers part of the European region.
Its author Dr Claudia Stein said life expectancy had gone up but obesity was putting this progress at risk.
‘What is even more alarming is what is going on with children,’ she said.
‘If I remember my childhood there were one or two chubby children in the class. Now if you see the data it is really high.’
She added: ‘Adult alcohol consumption is a huge contributor to obesity, and Britain has overtaken the European average.’
Experts said Britain had such a weight problem in part because of the heavy influence of the US, which has an even worse obesity rate of 38 per cent.
European countries such as France and Italy are less susceptible to American advertising because of the language barrier.
Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: ‘We have long known that, among high-income countries, obesity rates are higher in English-speaking ones, including the USA and UK.
‘Within Europe, other countries with high rates include Ireland and Malta.
‘This has been a long-standing puzzle and some have asked whether it is because the intensive marketing in the United States in English has a global reach, but especially in countries where everyone speaks English.’
Caroline Cerny of the Obesity Health Alliance said: ‘It’s very concerning to see the UK has one of the highest levels of adults with obesity in Europe.
The Mail revealed yesterday that the NHS is to put diabetics on low-calorie soup and shake diets to try to beat the disease
‘However this is hardly surprising when we live in an environment that steers us towards unhealthy choices with marketing, promotions and super-size portions.
‘We need the Government to fully implement measures outlined in their childhood obesity strategy such as a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts to help ensure the next generation have the opportunity to grow up healthy.’
Helen Dickens of Diabetes UK said the figures from WHO were very worrying. She added: ‘Obesity is one of the main risk factors of Type 2 diabetes, and the reason why 12.3million people in the UK are at risk of developing the condition.
‘We need to tackle the obesity epidemic in order to stop the Type 2 diabetes crisis from growing, by helping people make healthier choices and supporting them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.’
People need to make healthier choices and support them to maintain a healthy lifestyle
The Mail revealed yesterday that the NHS is to put diabetics on low-calorie soup and shake diets to try to beat the disease.
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Our regulations on junk food advertising to children are some of the toughest in the world – while our soft drinks industry levy has removed billions of tons of sugar from children’s diets.
‘We recently set out proposals to ban energy drinks for children and plans are under way to reduce their exposure to sugary food and get them moving more in school.’
The WHO study, which covers data up to 2016, showed Britons consume 24 per cent more alcohol than the European average.
A BMI score is a rough calculation based on the relationship between an individual’s weight and height.
I cut out beer and curry to reverse my diabetes – and lost 7st, says Labour’s Tom Watson
Tom Watson reversed his Type 2 diabetes by cutting out beer and curry, he revealed last night. The Labour deputy leader lost 98lbs in weight – seven stone – after he adopted a radical diet and took up boxing.
‘I am very happy to reveal that my Type 2 diabetes has been reversed, it’s in remission,’ said the 51-year-old. ‘No longer having to take medicines for diabetes is a joy. To all Type 2 diabetics I say: “Yes, we can.”
‘Yet the tragedy for many is that they don’t even know their condition is reversible, let alone how to achieve it.’
Writing in the Daily Express, Mr Watson said he realised his problem last year as he ‘huffed and puffed’ to his Westminster office. ‘It felt that if I didn’t do this, I was going to die,’ he said. He cut out all sugar and ultra-processed food from his diet and started walking and running and then boxing.
‘Politicians of all sides must join forces to enact change,’ he said. ‘My experience of escaping Type 2 diabetes has given me a new mission to help others get healthy.
‘We can’t afford to keep going as we are. The challenge is huge but generations will suffer if we fail to get a grip on the obesity crisis that threatens to engulf us.’
Pictured before and after he downsized: Tom Watson said he was so overweight he thought he would die