Irish men to be the fattest in Europe - with women second
Ireland's men will be the fattest in Europe in less than a decade, a major report reveals today - and women are also expected to surge up the obesity league table.
A staggering 38pc of men in Ireland will be obese by 2025, topping the European table along with the UK.
Women in Ireland are on course to be the second fattest in Europe at that stage if they fail to turn around current lifestyle trends.
By 2025, some 37pc of women in Ireland and 38pc in the UK will be obese, medical journal 'The Lancet' warns.
In the past 40 years there has been a startling increase in the number of obese people worldwide, rising from 105 million in 1975 to 641 million in 2014, according to the most comprehensive analysis of body mass index (BMI) trends to date.
"Over the past 40 years, we have changed from a world in which underweight prevalence was more than double that of obesity, to one in which more people are obese than underweight," said senior author Professor Majid Ezzati from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, UK.
"If present trends continue, not only will the world not meet the obesity target of halting the rise in the prevalence of obesity ... by 2025, but more women will be severely obese than underweight by 2025."
Ireland has been among the worst countries for allowing waistlines to expand to unhealthy levels in recent decades.
Men in Ireland, Cyprus and Malta and women in Moldova now have the highest average BMI in Europe.
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Ireland has the third highest average BMI in Europe for women, equal to the UK and Russia.
By contrast women in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Singapore, Japan and the Czech Republic had virtually no increase in average BMI.
Commenting on the alarming trends, Dr Donal O'Shea, obesity expert in Loughlinstown and St Vincent's Hospitals in Dublin, said: "This is what we have been hearing in terms of warnings. The World Health Organization put us on notice more than two years ago that we will be the fattest country in Europe by 2030.
"Our administrators have tried to say that is really not going to be the case. But when you get repeated studies saying you are going to be top of the table you have got to take heed and whether we are going to the fattest or fifth fattest it does not matter. It is a massive problem and burden for our health service.
"It is almost entirely preventable if you get a good lifestyle and physical activity infrastructure in place from a young age. That is where the emphasis has to be."
He said: "The time for ignoring is over. There is a lack of regulation of the marketing of high-fat and [high-]sugar food, in particular to younger children. Physical activity levels in Ireland and the UK have declined. At the same time, technology and sedentary lifestyle in Ireland and the UK have taken a grip. You then have the combination you don't want. The Government launched the Healthy Ireland framework two years ago but the new government will have to back that."
A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it was developing a National Obesity Policy and Action Plan and had identified 10 key steps to help halt and reverse the rise in this global epidemic in Ireland. The plan is due to go to the Senior Officials Group and then government in the coming months.
"The policy has a strong implementation focus and prevention is highlighted as a central theme. This is reflected in the recommendations of the action plan," the spokesperson added.