British the fattest people in Europe

If new figures released by the British Government are to be believed, the British are now the fattest men and women in Europe.

It appears that being overweight or obese is now the 'norm' in the UK and the figures reveal that two-thirds of men and almost 60% of women are overweight to the extent that their health is suffering.

The British population is now heavier than both Slovakia and Greece and if current trends are any indication the next generation will hang on to the title, as nearly a third of boys and girls aged under 11, will be overweight or obese by 2010.

The town of Boston in Lincolnshire has the highest number of people with obesity in England.

The figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), compared the UK with 21 other European countries, and are part of a government health profile which details the state of the nation's health, what has been achieved, and targets for the future.

According to the public health minister, Caroline Flint, Britain leads Europe in the obesity stakes for a combination of reasons, some of which were cultural and associated with shopping and family habits and some due to what is eaten and physical activity.

The government has set itself the target of halting the continuing rise in obesity among children under 11 by 2010, but does not set a similar target for adults.

Campaigns have been aimed at encouraging people to change their lifestyles and take responsibility for their health and Ms Flint says she does not feel it is her job to tell people what to do.

The government is instead looking at incentives, such as a voucher scheme offering money off fruit and vegetables which is being trialled in Cornwall, and more subliminal approaches.

A launch is planned for next spring on a "social marketing strategy" to tackle obesity, based on research into the most effective ways of targeting messages to particular groups.

The documents show that rising rates of diabetes resulting mainly from obesity increased by two-thirds in men and doubled in women, between 1994 and 2003.

The disease is debilitating, costly to treat, and complications can include blindness and limb amputation.

Levels of obesity in children aged two to 10 rose from 9.9% in 1995 to 14.3% in 2004.

In 2003, 22% of men and 23% of women were obese; this figure will rise to 33% of men and 28% of women by 2010 if nothing is done.

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