IT'S official and startling – Ireland is just a short step away from becoming the "fat man of Europe", according to a new league table.
Europe's stark obesity league is as follows:
* UK: 24.9pc
* Ireland: 24.5pc
* Spain: 24.1pc
* Portugal: 21.6pc
* Germany: 21.3pc
* Belgium: 19.1pc
* Austria: 18.3pc
* Italy: 17.2pc
* Sweden: 16.6pc
* France: 15.6pc
It means that one in four of us is obese and we are now significantly ahead of countries such as France, Germany, Spain and Sweden.
It blames the rise in obesity on modern lifestyles, including our overuse of the car, TVs, computers, desk-bound jobs and high-calorie food.
It is leaving us more prone to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
A person is considered overweight if they have a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29, and obese with a BMI of 30 and above.
While adults and children in lower socio-economic groups are more likely to be obese than those who are wealthier, the reality is that it is seen across all social groups.
The report points out: "If prices rise, consumers tend to maintain their level of staple food consumption by switching to cheaper, less diverse and nutritionally inferior diets."
Experts say no one country in the world has a comprehensive, long-term strategy to deal with the challenges posed by obesity.
"The only country to have successfully reversed its obesity problem was Cuba, although it was the unexpected consequence of an economic downturn in the early 1990s," said a spokesperson for NHS Choices in the UK.
"This caused severe food and fuel shortages, which resulted in an average weight loss per citizen of 5.5kg over the course of the five-year economic crisis there.
"During this time, there was a significant drop in prevalence of, and deaths due to, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and cancers."
It said that a study based on the Cuban experience concludes that national initiatives encouraging people to eat less and exercise more could be effective at tackling obesity levels.
Key areas which could work include:
* Giving people advice on healthier food choices and physical activity.
* Encouraging businesses on the high street to include calorie information on their menus so people can make healthy choices.
* Giving people guidance on how much physical activity they should be doing.
For the individual, the message is simple: Eat less and move more.
Ring Safefood at 1850 404 567 for free booklets on weight-loss tips