Young women in the UK are fatter than anywhere else in western Europe with one in 12 being clinically obese, a study has shown.
Researchers looking at weight levels in 188 countries found that more than half the planet’s 671 million obese people live in just 10 countries.
Just over eight per cent of females in the UK aged under 20 are obese while 29.2 per cent are overweight, according to research published in The Lancet medical journal.
The study, which uncovered a “startling” surge in the level of obesity worldwide, found in the UK that among adults, those aged 20 and older, a quarter are obese.
More men are fat than women with 66.6 per cent classed as overweight and 24.5 per cent obese. Among women, 57.2 per cent are overweight with 25.4 per cent classified as obese.
Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, said: "The levels of obesity in the UK - and indeed, across the world - are of great concern. That is why Public Health England is putting in so much effort to attempt to reverse the trend.
"The challenge of obesity is at the heart of current debate about the health of the nation and we are working closely with local authorities, the NHS and the voluntary and community sector to tackle this complex issue."
Researchers discovered that worldwide from 1980 to 2013 the number of overweight people rose from 857 million to 2.1 billion, an increase of 28% for adults and 47% among children.
The ten countries which are home to more than half the world’s obese people are the US, which has 13 per cent of them and where a third of adults are obese, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.
Of 22 western European countries looked at by the research team, Andora performed the best. Of its population of just over 78,000, 10.6% of adult men and 7.2% of women are classified as obese.
Professor Emmanuela Gakidou, from the University of Washington, led the study and said: "Unlike other major global health risks, such as tobacco and childhood nutrition, obesity is not decreasing worldwide.
"Our findings show that increases in the prevalence of obesity have been substantial, widespread, and have arisen over a short time. However, there is some evidence of a plateau in adult obesity rates that provides some hope that the epidemic might have peaked in some developed countries and that populations in other countries might not reach the very high rates of more than 40% reported in some developing countries.
"Our analysis suggests that the UN's target to stop the rise in obesity by 2025 is very ambitious and is unlikely to be achieved without concerted action and further research to assess the effect of population-wide interventions, and how to effectively translate that knowledge into national obesity control programmes.
"In particular, urgent global leadership is needed to help low-and middle-income countries intervene to reduce excessive calorie intake, physical inactivity, and active promotion of food consumption by industry."