26/11/2011 02:45 GMT | Updated 25/01/2012 05:12 GMT

British Women 'Most Overweight In Europe'

British women have been named the most overweight in Europe.

Figures released by the European Commission showed that nearly a quarter (23.9%) of women in the UK were obese in 2008/09, when the data was recorded.

The statistics showed British men are not far behind, with 22.1% being classed as overweight, coming second only to Malta.

They found the share of overweight and obese people increases with age in all of the 19 member states that data was available for. The figures also show the proportion of women who are obese or overweight falls as the educational level rises.

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

Separate statistics show that around a third (32%) of English children aged 11 to 15 are overweight or obese.

Last month Health Secretary Andrew Lansley launched a new "ambition" to bring down England's obesity levels by 2020 and said people need to be honest with themselves about how much they eat and drink.

Overall, Britons should be eating five billion fewer calories a day than at present, he said.

And earlier this year, the issue's toll on health services became apparent when it emerged that the number of hospital admissions for obesity has risen by more than 30%. There were 10,571 NHS hospital admissions in 2009/10 where the main reason for treatment was that the person was obese. The figure is more than 10 times the number in 1999/00 (979) and more than 30% higher than in 2008/09 (7,988).

A man or woman is defined as obese if their body mass index (BMI) is 30 or above and overweight if is between 25 and 30. The BMI is a measure of a person's weight relative to their height that correlates fairly well with body fat and is calculated by their dividing body weight by body height squared.