New research has found that Europe is heading for an unprecedented explosion in rates of excess weight, with Ireland at the forefront of the trend.

By 2030 it is estimated 89% of Irish men and 85% of Irish women will have weight problems.

By the same year researchers predict 57% of Irish women and 48% of Irish men will have reached an obese state.

The study by the World Health Organization will be presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague, which runs from 6 - 9 May, as part of the WHO Modelling Obesity Project. 

The unpublished projections are based on an extrapolation of what would happen if trends between 2010 and 2014 in 53 WHO countries continued until 2030.

The forecast puts Irish men at the top of an overweight table of 53 countries, matched only by Uzbekistan.

While amongst females, only in Bulgaria and Belgium will have overweight and obesity levels be higher than here.

Ireland is not alone in the trend, however, with steep rises in obesity in Greece, Spain, Sweden, Austria, and the Czech Republic also projected.

In the UK 73% of men and 63% of women are expected to be overweight or obese by 2030, with a third of women categorised as obese.

The authors say that while forecasts need to be treated with extreme caution, and mitigation measures have been taken in some countries including Ireland which could reduce the projections, the study nevertheless presents a worrying picture which governments need to address.

The term 'overweight' is clinically defined by a Body Mass Index (BMI) - a measure relating height and weight - of 25 to 29.9, and "obese" by a BMI of 30 and above.

Dr Laura Webber, from the UK Health Forum in London, who co-led the research, said: "Our study presents a worrying picture of rising obesity across Europe.

"Policies to reverse this trend are urgently needed. Although there is no 'silver bullet' for tackling the epidemic, governments must do more to restrict unhealthy food marketing and make healthy food more affordable.

"There are also some countries in which there were insufficient data. As these countries improve their obesity surveillance, more accurate estimates can be forecast."