Most people in Northern Ireland could be obese by 2050 if immediate action is not taken, according to a report.

The problem could spiral to unmanageable levels, the Northern Ireland Assembly's health committee warned.

Up to 60% of men and half of women could be badly overweight with massive strain on healthcare budgets.

The committee's report said: 'Growing levels of obesity will continue to generate enormous costs to society, particularly the health and social care sector in the years ahead.

'Given this and the potential for significant cost benefits, we believe it is imperative that substantial and sustained resources are provided to implement the new life course strategy.'

Committee chairman Jim Wells said: 'The committee was shocked at the prevalence of obesity in our society.

'The health complications that are associated with it affect all of our people, both young and old.'

The committee urged that funding be earmarked and not consumed by other emerging priorities.

It called on the Public Health Agency to make tackling obesity its top priority and bring together all government bodies. The report also said the PHA should maintain a central database of projects.

The report recommended that the NI Department of Health should commission an urgent audit of obesity-related initiatives so examples of good practice can be rolled out more widely.

The report added: 'We call on the minister (Michael McGimpsey) as a matter of urgency to undertake a comprehensive review of weight management services at all levels for adults and children.'

The paper also highlighted the need to develop a broad strategy to tackle obesity across different population groups.

Mr McGimpsey said obesity was blamed for thousands of lost working days and cost the Northern Ireland economy £500 million per year.

Mr McGimpsey said tackling the issue was a priority for the future and he said he welcomed all advice on combating obesity.