More people are dying in Britain due to being overweight or obese than anywhere else in Europe, a study revealed yesterday.
Around one in every 11 deaths in the UK is now linked to carrying excess fat – 50 per cent more than the rate in France.
Experts also warned that the number of fatalities due to obesity may soon, for the first time, exceed those caused by smoking.
Being overweight or obese leaves people at high risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and osteoarthritis. It also makes them much more likely to develop several types of cancer.
The growing health disaster is being blamed on the rise of aggressively marketed, fat-laden fast food and couch-potato lifestyles.
Around half of British adults are overweight, and 17 per cent of men and 21 per cent of women are obese.
The difference between being overweight and obese lies in a person’s Body Mass Index, which is calculated from weight and height. An adult with a BMI of more than 25 is classed as overweight and one with a BMI of more than 30 is obese.
Britain is the ‘fat capital’ of Europe, according to researchers from the University of Madrid’s School of Medicine whose study is published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The lowest death rate from being obese and overweight was in France, but the researchers said it was clear that Europe as a whole has a problem.
The study found that up to 400,000 deaths each year in the EU are directly linked to excess weight.
Of all the deaths in the UK that were linked to excess weight, about 66 per cent were down to obesity, and 33 per cent to being overweight.
In around 70 per cent of overweight-linked cases, the final cause of death was heart disease and in 20 per cent, it was cancer. Overall, around 12 per cent of heart disease deaths in Britain were due to being overweight, and 5.7 per cent of total deaths from cancer were also directly caused by being overweight or obese.
Dr Jose Banegas, who led the research, said excess weight is a major public health problem.
‘One in two in the EU is obese or overweight,’ he added. ‘Excess weight may well come to replace smoking as the major killer of adults in the near future.
‘Most countries have not yet made any systematic effort to raise public awareness as to the dangers of obesity.’
As well as being worst for fat-related deaths, the UK tops the smoking mortality league, with 21 per cent of all deaths linked to tobacco.
Obesity costs Â£2.6billion a year in NHS bills and indirect losses to the economy. Other studies have shown that the percentage of overweight children in Britain has virtually doubled in the last decade.
Dr Andrew Hill, of Leeds University, said the rate of adult obesity in Britain is rising by one per cent of the population a year.
Doctors say that being obese when you are 40 knocks up to seven years off your life. Obese people who smoke will die more than 13 years before their time.
Doctors are unsure why France should come out with the lowest rate of deaths due to excess weight. The French do not eat less saturated fat than the British and have similar cholesterol levels.
It has been suggested that they are protected from heart attacks by drinking alcohol, particularly red wine.
Fat families are to be prescribed a visit to their local Sainsbury’s by GPs, where they will be taken by the hand and shown healthy foods.
The supermarket has struck a deal with family doctors and the drug firm Roche under which overweight patients will be offered tours of selected stores with advice from nutrition experts.
Source: JAMES CHAPMAN, Daily Mail