Millions of British men risk serious illness by refusing to do anything about their burgeoning beer bellies, preferring instead to ignore them.
A new national poll reveals that one-third of British men - around 7.5 million - have a beer gut. Some 80 per cent of those are clinically overweight or obese. Seven per cent of those polled expressed pride at owning a beer gut.
A larger proportion were in denial. Of those who claimed not to have a beer belly, 43 per cent were obese or overweight.
According to Dr Colin Waine, the chairman of the National Obesity Forum, men just don't want to face facts: "It's down to denial rather than ignorance. There's been so much publicity about weight issues in the media that you can't say you're unaware now."
Medical research has established that people who are one stone overweight double their chances of having a heart attack. Three or more stone overweight greatly increases the threat of obesity-related killers such as cancer, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Researchers established that men are aware of the dangers and would change their lifestyles if they suffered some life-threatening illness as a result of being too fat. Fifty per cent said heart problems would provide the greatest motivation to lose weight and 41 per cent said high blood pressure would provide the turning point.
Professor Peter Kopelman, an obesity expert at the University of East Anglia, said: "Men are actually good at losing weight - but only when the problem becomes serious. Men don't really see the urgency until someone says to them 'you've got a major problem with your health.'"
The study, conducted by a market research company for a health firm, also showed that married men are at greater risk of developing weight-related illnesses: 62 per cent of them were overweight or obese, compared with 45 per cent who were not in a relationship.
Professor Kopelman said: "When you go through the various events in people's lives and you ask them when they gain weight, it is often when they get married - more so for blokes, as it's the first time since childhood that they've had someone provide for them."
Experts agree that unless men make major changes in their habits and attitudes, projections for the future look bleak. By 2010, three-quarters of all men will be overweight, according to Professor Alan White, the chairman of the Men's Health Forum: "The state hasn't prepared for the structural changes we'll need. We must be thinking about bigger changes - children's activity levels need to go up, employers need to become aware of risks associated with a sedentary life and need to take responsibility for enabling their workforce to become healthier."
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3 in 4 men in the United Kingdom will be overweight by 2010
62 per cent of men in a relationship are overweight or obese compared with 45 per cent of those who are not in a relationship
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