British women are the fattest in Europe, according to a survey by Eurostat, the statistical arm of the European Commission, which examined health data from 19 countries.

Almost one-fourth of women in the United Kingdom -- 23.9 percent -- were obese as of the 2008-2009 period; while 22.1 percent of British men are fat (second only to Malta, at 24.7 percent).

Eurostat uses Body Mass Index (BMI) -- the weight in kilos divided by the square of the height in meters -- to calculate obesity. A BMI figure above 30 signifies obesity.

Following Britain, the European nations with the highest levels of obesity in women were Malta (21.1 percent), Latvia (20.9 percent), and Estonia (20.5 percent).

After Malta and the UK, the European countries with the fattest men were Hungary (21.4 percent) and the Czech Republic (18.4 percent).

On the other extreme, obesity levels were found to be quite low in Romania, Italy, Bulgaria and France.

For example, in Romania only 8 percent of women and 7.6 percent of men were obese. In Italy, the respective figures were 9.3 percent for women and 11.3 percent for men.

Interestingly, Eurostat found that there was no systematic difference in obesity between women and men: the proportion of obesity was higher for women in eight European Union states, but were higher for men in ten and equal in one.

Generally speaking, obesity in Europe rises with age and falls with educational levels, particularly for women.

However, obesity rates are significantly higher in the Unites States, where 26.8 percent of women and 27.6 percent of men are obese.

Addressing the obesity crisis in Britain, last month the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said he wants to significantly reduce obesity levels in the country by 2020. Overall, he declared that British people are eating in excess of 5-billion calories every day.