Brussels, Belgium At least seven European countries now challenge the United States in size -- at least around the waistline.
In a group of nations from Greece to Germany, the proportion of overweight or obese men is higher than in the United States, experts said Tuesday in a major analysis of expanding girth on the European continent.
In Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Greece, Malta and Slovakia, a higher percentage of men are obese or overweight than the estimated 67 percent of men in the United States, according to a report from the International Obesity Task Force, a coalition of researchers and institutions.
Obesity is especially acute in Mediterranean countries, underscoring concerns that people in the southern region are turning away from the traditional diet of fish, fruits and vegetables to fast food high in fat and refined carbohydrates.
In Greece, for example, 38 percent of women are obese, compared with 34 percent in the United States, the group said.
The change in diets, which the obesity task force said had occurred over the past two decades, affects children most because it is reflected in school lunches.
The task force estimated that among the EU's 103 million youngsters the number of those overweight rises by 400,000 each year. More than 30 percent of children ages 7 to 11 are overweight in Italy, Portugal, Spain and Malta, it said.
That matches estimates for American children.