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UK girls are Europe's most obese

By John von Radowitz

More girls under 20 are overweight or obese in the UK than anywhere else in western Europe, alarming new research has shown.

In this age group, 29.2% of the British population are excessively heavy. Just over 8% of the girls meet the clinical definition of obesity, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or above.

Of the 22 western European countries studied, only Greece is on a par with the UK as far as girls aged 20 and younger are concerned, with a 0.1% lower prevalence. The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, confirms previous research that has shown roughly a quarter of Britain's adult population to be obese.

Among adults aged 20 and above, 66.6% of men and 57.2% of women were either obese or overweight, while obesity affected 24.5% and 25.4% respectively.

The study documented a "startling" surge in obesity and overweight rates in 188 countries around the world. Between 1980 and 2013 the number of overweight and obese people rose from 857m to 2.1bn. This represents an increase of 28% for adults and 47% for children.

But the research, by the University of Washington in the US, also found enormous variation around the world, with more than half the planet's 671m obese individuals living in just 10 countries – the US, home to more than 13%, China, India, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Egypt, Germany, Pakistan and Indonesia.

In the US, about a third of the adult population is now obese.

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