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Ireland is home to the second-highest rate of adult obesity in the European Union, surpassed only by the UK, a new report has revealed.

The research also shows that the obesity rate has more than doubled over the past 20 years in almost all EU member states and currently stands at 23 percent in Ireland.

High rates in other countries include 24.5 percent in the UK, 22.3 percent in Malta, 20.1 percent in Iceland and 20 percent in Luxembourg. The lowest rates were recorded in Romania with 7.9 percent and Switzerland at 8.1 percent.

The new data was unveiled in the 'Health at a Glance 2010' report by the OECD.

The report also revealed that only one-in-five EU children exercise regularly and that as many as one-in-seven EU children are overweight or obese.

"In order to reverse the growing trend in obesity and other health problems in the EU we need reliable and up-to-date data," according to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli.

The report highlighted the fact that children who are obese are much more likely to suffer ill health in later life and also have a greatest risk of developing heart diseases, diabetes and some forms of cancer, arthritis and asthma, as well as a reduced quality of life and in some cases premature death.

It also shows that heart disease is still the biggest cause of death in Europe accounting for 40 percent of all deaths in Europe in 2008. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Europe.

On a positive note Ireland has seen a drop in premature deaths by 50 percent.