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Health & Families

More than half of European adults overweight: study

More than half of European adults are now overweight and too many children smoke or are obese, raising the risk of cancer or heart attacks, a European health report showed Tuesday.

Just over 15 percent of adults in the European Union are obese, a rate that has more than doubled over the past 20 years in most EU states, the study found.

The obesity rate ranges from less than 10 percent in Romania and Italy to more than 20 percent in Britain, Ireland and Malta, said the report issued by the European Commission and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Among children aged between 11 and 15, one in seven is overweight or obese across the 27-nation bloc, and the figure will rise, the report said. The rate is higher in southern Europe, where one in five suffers from excessive weight.

"Children who are obese or overweight are more likely to suffer from poor health later in life, with a greater risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, some forms of cancer, arthritis, asthma, a reduced quality of life and even premature death," the commission said.

A measure of obesity is body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing a person's weight by the square of the person's height.

A person with a BMI of 25 or more is overweight while someone whose index exceeds 30 is generally considered obese, according to the World Health Organisation.

One in five 15-year-olds smoke in the European Union, while 40 percent in Britain, Bulgaria, Denmark, Finland and Lithuania admit having been drunk at least two times.

These habits increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer, putting pressure on health care systems in Europe, the study said.

A recent study in England found that total costs linked to overweightness and obesity could increase by as much as 70 percent between 2007 and 2015, the report said.

"Given the current need to reduce budget deficits in many countries, governments may be faced with difficult policy choices in the short-term," the report said.

"They may either have to curb the growth of public spending on health, cut spending in other areas, or raise taxes or social security contributions to reduce their deficits," it said.