Irish among fattest in Europe as our obesity levels soar
Published 25/09/2010 | 05:00
IRISH people are now the second fattest in Europe, with the levels of obesity soaring by a worrying 40pc over the past decade.
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has found that one in four adults here can be classed as obese -- or nearly 30lbs above a normal, healthy weight.
It also found that more than two in three Irish women and one in two Irish men are classed as overweight -- or 10pc above their healthy weight
The US is home to the largest people on the planet, with more than 30pc of men and women clinically obese. It is followed by Mexico, Chile, New Zealand and then Britain.
The OECD report did not include Ireland as one of the countries providing in-depth data for analysis in the report.
"But Ireland does provide aggregate percentages for our regular (yearly) data collection," Franco Sassi, the OECD senior health economist who wrote the report, told the Irish Independent yesterday.
"So, you may have seen in the graph that includes all OECD countries that Ireland is indeed the country with the highest obesity rates in Europe, after the UK.
"Almost one in four adults is obese in Ireland. Also, one in four children are overweight.
The Paris-based organisation, which brings together 33 of the world's leading economies, is better known for forecasting deficits and employment levels than for measuring waistlines.
But the economic cost of excess weight -- in health care, and in lives cut short and resources wasted -- is a growing concern for many governments.
A separate report published this week estimated that our physical inactivity is costing the country €1.6bn a year in health supports to treat obesity-related diseases.
Mr Sassi blamed the usual suspects for the increase in weight. "Food is much cheaper than in the past, in particular food that is not particularly healthy; and people are changing their lifestyles," he said.
"They have less time to prepare meals and are eating out more in restaurants."
A severely obese person is likely to die two to eight years earlier than a person of normal weight.
And Mr Sassi said that the prognosis for Ireland was grim.
"Although the data are not fully comparable, there are indications that obesity rates have increased by 40pc in Ireland in the last 10 years and there is no reason to think that growth will slow down in the near future."
The OECD report recorded the world's slimmest people as the Japanese, with only 3pc of people obese and one in five overweight.