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Europe's growing waistline

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Obesity is becoming the UK's leading preventable killer.

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Figures show that Europeans are more overweight than ever before.
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Experts say obesity is rapidly becoming a health crisis across Europe with more than 200 million people -- a third of the continent's population -- now considered overweight or obese.

A survey carried out by the International Obesity Task Force found that in many European countries more than half the adult population is overweight -- nearly triple the number 20 years ago.

It also found the number of overweight children is rising with three quarters now believed to be obese.

Greece tops the 'eurobesity' league table with 70 percent of women and 68 percent of men overweight while Germany has the highest number of overweight men in Europe with 71 percent believed to be obese.

The UK follows closely behind with obesity believed to affect more than 60 percent of people.

"We are eating less than we used to, but we are also less active," Hannah Theobald from the British Nutrition Foundation told CNN.

"We are leading more sedentary lifestyles, we are sitting more at desks, we are not as active as we used to be," she said.

In the UK, obesity -- which costs the economy more than $3 billion each year -- is rapidly overtaking smoking as the country's leading preventable killer.

"We are losing 18 million sick days due to obesity related diseases. We have 30, 000 deaths in the UK per year because of it," said Theobald.

"Average life expectancy is reduced in obese people compared to lean people by almost nine years."

The study found that Italy, the Netherlands and France have fewer obese people. In France, for example, less than 30 percent of women and 42 percent of men are obese.

But across the continent the survey shows that people are getting fatter and at a faster rate with one in four European children now believed to be overweight.

Following in the footsteps of the U.S., 'fat camps' for children have begun to open across Europe to educate and change eating habits.

Dave Tonge, Camp Administrator from a UK weight loss camp in Nottingham says the emphasis of the camps is to learn and have fun.

"We have fun and activities and an educational session with lifestyle to try and promote behavior change," Tonge told CNN.

"There was probably fish and chips in one part of the dinner hall, but in the other part there was salad," said one boy at the camp. "I had to make my mind up about which one, and it had to be the salad."

While experts believe that reversing the trend of obesity will be difficult they hope that by educating children and doctors they will help Europe fight the fat.

-- CNN's Jim Boulden contributed to this report.


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