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The facts on fat

Obesity in England doubled between 1980 and 1994 from 6 per cent to 13.8 per cent of men and from 8 per cent to 17.3 per cent of women. Half the adult population is overweight.

Matters are worse in the United States where a 1991 survey showed one- third of the white population of both sexes were obese. In Germany, a 1990 survey showed 17.2 per cent of men and 19.3 per cent of women were obese.

Obesity is defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or above. A man who measures 5ft 10in and weighs 15-stone is obese, as is a woman of 5ft 7in weighing 13st 10lbs. BMI is a measure of fatness derived by dividing weight in kilograms by height in metres squared.