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Chairman of the Vienna Congress, Dr Hermann Toplak
"There seems to be a real epidemic now"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 30 May, 2001, 08:28 GMT 09:28 UK
Obesity epidemic warning
Overweight man
More than 300 million people are obese in the world
By Bethany Bell in Vienna

Health experts gathering in the Austrian capital, Vienna, have warned that obesity is rising to epidemic proportions.

Delegates at the 11th European Congress on Obesity say the problem affects more than 300 million people worldwide.

Obesity figures
Obese men in Europe: 10-20%
Obese women in Europe: 10-25%
Obesity in America: 25-33%
Obesity health care expenditure: 2-8%
Organisers of the congress say obesity in men, women and children is increasing rapidly in many Western and in some developing countries.

They say the problem is beginning to replace malnutrition and infectious diseases as the most significant contributor to ill health worldwide.

Obesity is not just restricted to industrialised countries. In developing countries, it is estimated that more than 115 million people suffer from weight-related problems.

Obesity risks

The 2,000 scientists, doctors and nutritionists at the Vienna congress are considering research about the role of genetics, metabolism and drugs in contributing to the problem, as well as new therapies to treat it.

Overweight woman
Losing weight can protect against disease
Up to now, low-fat diets, exercise programmes and drugs that suppress the appetite have been the main methods used to combat obesity.

But the chairman of the congress, Dr Hermann Toplak, says new treatments such as the slimming pill Xenical, which inhibits the breakdown and absorption of fat, and the appetite-controlling drug Reductil, are changing the way doctors treat the condition.

Obese people are at greatly increased risk from a wide range of conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, strokes and certain cancers.

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