Epidemic of obesity feared

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A global epidemic of obesity threatens to place an impossible burden on health care systems around the world, in both rich and poor countries a leading expert warned today.

One in five middle-aged adults in Europe were sufficiently overweight to be considered obese and the situation is even worse in the US and eastern Europe where it afflicted as many as half of middle-aged women. Obesity was also rising in the developing nations of South America, the Caribbean and Asia, while in some American Indian tribes and Polynesian races it affected almost 80 per cent of the population.

Writing in the Lancet, Professor Per Bjorntorp, from the Department of Heart and Lung Diseases at the University of Gothenburg, said: "These frequencies mean that countries such as the UK, France and Germany each have 5-10 million inhabitants who are obese and need treatment. A medical problem of this size is probably beyond the capacity of even the best health care system." Glenda Cooper