THE COST of Ireland's "obesity epidemic" is heading towards a staggering €3bn every year, the Herald can reveal.
Senior health experts sent out a stark warning that our obesity crisis will have a "devastating effect" on taxpayers.
One of Ireland's top experts in the field told the Herald that obesity will reach "US proportions" and consume over 20pc of Ireland's health budget.
And doctors admitted they are bracing themselves for record levels of heart disease and cancer as a result of the crisis.
Children's Minister Frances Fitzgerald has admitted she is "completely shocked" at the current weight of children.
The latest statistics reveal that obesity is intensifying at twice the projected rate in Ireland -- with practitioners now calling for a "redoubling" of the efforts in the battle to contain the overweight crisis.
And for the first time, experts are now predicting the savage effect the crisis will have on our health budget.
Obesity specialist Prof Donal O'Shea warned that the cost of obesity is heading towards a staggering "€3bn per year".
"From dealing with obesity sufferers every day -- I can tell you they are getting younger and bigger," he said.
"It's not an exaggeration to say the obesity crisis is heading towards costing us €3bn every year. We're heading towards the direction of 20pc of our health budget being swallowed by this epidemic.
"Obesity is a major contributor to cancer, diabetes, heart disease and stroke and these are all high-cost illnesses."
And Safefood Director of Human Health and Nutrition Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan warned that the cost will reach "unprecedented levels".
She said: "The situation is simply not getting any better. In terms of the rates of obesity, the rates of cancers, the rates of adult on-set diabetes -- they are increasing at incredible proportions. The level of obesity in men has trebled."
Dr Foley-Nolan emphasised that parents are failing to recognise they're children are overwight, adding that so many are not showing "tough love".
She said: "When you consider that one in four primary school pupils are overweight it's clear parents are seeing their children as 'big boned' when in fact they are clearly obese."