As the latest statistics estimate that worldwide one billion adults are overweight, and a third of those are obese, an expert has stated that the issue must be regarded with the same urgency as climate change.
Professor Philip James a leading health and obesity expert, says major changes are needed in food production, advertising and town planning if the tide is to be turned.
Professor James who has developed policies for the British Government, the United Nations and the World Health Organisation, has called on world leaders to agree to a global pact on fighting obesity.
Professor James, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in the UK, says ten percent of the world's children are either overweight or obese, twice as many as the malnourished.
He believes healthy food should be made cheaper, the advertising of junk food to children clearly regulated and towns should be built around walking and public transport rather than roads and cars.
According to Professor James the world can no longer afford to wait and waiting for the perfect solution, will be too late.
A quarter of British women and a fifth of British men are classed as obese, at a cost to the NHS of £1billion a year and that bill is expected to rise to £6.5billion by 2050.
Australia too has a growing crisis in obesity which is also a major health issue and has become one of the fattest nations with the rate of overweight and obesity amongst adults and children doubling over the past 20 years.
A National Health Survey in 2004 found that almost two thirds of men (62 per cent) and just under half of women (45 per cent) were either overweight or obese, and it is an increasing problem with Australian children as up to a quarter (20-25 per cent) aged 7-15 years, are overweight or obese.
Obesity is complex problem but is not confined to adults, and the solution is rather more straightforward - we need to lead healthier lives and many of the health problems caused by obesity can be prevented by living a healthy and active life.
Obesity can shorten a person's life by as much as nine years and raise the risk of a plethora of health problems including several cancers, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, infertility and depression.
Professor James, is the chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, and he says it is naive of politicians and food industry executives to place the onus on individuals making 'healthier choices' whilst the environment in which we live is the overwhelming factor amplifying the epidemic.
Professor James says it is even more naive to tell people that they just need to make a little change in their eating habits or their daily activity and suddenly the obesity problem will be remarkably solved.
Professor James has called on the food industry to make healthy foods affordable for all, and says there has been a ruthless drive to increase sales and consumption figures by targeting children which have over-ridden common sense and the need for social responsibility.
He says the design of towns and cities needs to be concentrated on improving public transport and curtailing the use of motor cars and provide real alternatives that encourage everyone to walk and incorporate activity into their routine every day life.
Professor James was speaking at the American Association for Advancement of Science's (AAAS) annual conference in Boston.
Another expert, Professor Rena Wing, also presented research at the AAAS suggesting that large-scale changes in diet and exercise were needed to prevent obesity.
A study of 5,000 men and women who lost an average of 70lbs (30kg), and kept the weight off for six years, shows that large lifestyle changes, such as exercising 60 to 90 minutes a day, were needed to keep people slim.