The rate of increase in obesity in Britain is more than double that in the rest of Europe. And the World Health Organisation warns that obesity has reached epidemic proportions, affecting more than 1billion adults across the globe. Even in relatively poor countries, extreme fatness increasingly appears beside malnourishment. Easy access to high-calorie diets and a reduced need to expend energy working for a living, are partly responsible for the problem. Cultural differences are also significant. In some Pacific islands, for instance, fatness is traditionally associated with power and wealth. There are also significant differences in gender distribution of obesity - in most of the world women are fatter than men, but some countries, such as Ireland and Brazil, show an opposite trend.