The UK has more obese women than any other country in Europe, according to European Union figures.

Data agency Eurostat, which looked at 19 countries, found nearly a quarter of UK women – 23.9 per cent – were recorded as being obese in the year 2008 to 2009.
To match Special Report HEALTH-INCENTIVES/
Just over 22 per cent of UK men were classed as obese, coming second only to Malta.

A person is defined as obese if their body mass index (BMI), the result of a calculation involving weight and height, is above a certain level.

The BMI correlates fairly well with body fat.

Statisticians found the share of overweight and obese people increases with age in all of the 19 member states that data was available for.
The data come from the European Health Interview Survey (EHIS) and was published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union.

Its figures for the UK were based on data from England, although surveys suggest the percentage of obese adults in Wales and Northern Ireland is similar and Scotland’s latest health report put the figure at 28 per cent.

After the UK, the countries with the highest levels of female obesity were Malta, with 21.1 per cent, and Latvia, where 20.9 per cent fulfilled that criteria.

Meanwhile, after Malta and the UK, the countries with the highest instances of male obesity were Hungary – where 21.4 per cent fall into that category – and the Czech Republic, where 18.4 per cent are classed as such.

The UK’s high levels of obesity are in stark contrast to those in countries such as Romania, where just 8 per cent of women were classed as obese along with 7.6 per cent of men.

Obesity levels were also found to be low in Italy, Bulgaria and France.

In Italy, 9.3 per cent of women were found to be obese and 11.3 per cent men.

Meanwhile, in Bulgaria levels of obesity for women and men were found to be 11.3 per cent and 11.6 per cent, with levels of France identified as being 12.7 per cent and 11.7 per cent respectively.

The figures suggested that the proportion of women who are obese or overweight falls as the educational level rises.

Last month, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launched a bid to reduce obesity levels in England by 2020.

The minister said people need to be honest with themselves about how much they eat and drink.

He said that, overall, Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day than at present.