Obesity UK: we are getting as fat as Americans

Never mind the angst about size zero. Most of the population should worry more about resembling the shape of an O, according to a new report which reveals that our bodies keep expanding.

Too much alcohol and too many carbohydrates have given today's typical woman a 34in waistline. That takes the average British woman's vital statistics to 39:34:41 – a far cry from her hourglass heyday in the 1950s when the average woman's waist was 27 inches and her hips and bust both 34 inches.

For men the situation is worse. Fifty years ago, men could glance down with pride at a 30in waist and tipped the scales at 11 stone (70kg). Now the typical male weighs in at 80kg, or about 12 and a half stone. His waist has grown to more than 37 inches. Some 22 per cent of British adults are obese, with the bill costing the NHS £7.4bn a year.

The new study, based on body scans of nearly 9,000 UK adults, has also found big differences in the average American and British body shapes.

The differences, say researchers, may explain why Americans have higher risk of diseases including diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and cancer than their UK counterparts.

"[The] significant differences in body shape between US and UK white adults may prove to play a key role in accounting for differences in morbidity and mortality,'' say the researchers from University College London whose study appears in the International Journal of Obesity.

The average bust in the survey was 38.9in in the UK, and 40.5in in the US. The average British woman in the study weighed in at 66kg, which is 10 stone five. American men and women are eight to 13 pounds heavier.

Half of the nation's children will be classified as obese by 2050 if present trends continue.