An alarming number of people are unaware of the harm caused by extra fat around their waistline, suggests a study.
The report from GlaxoSmithKline quizzed 12,000 Europeans and found that almost nine in 10 people were unaware of the risks stemming from a "visceral fat" that is strongly linked with health problems including type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Study author Dr Terry Maguire, honorary senior lecturer at Queen's University in Belfast, said that most people did not know that a thick waist was a sign of a build-up of a dangerous type of fat around the internal organs.
"Most overweight people still see themselves as having a body image issue not a health problem and they need to understand the health benefits of weight loss as well as the cosmetic results," the BBC quoted him as saying.
But co-author Professor David Haslam, chair of the UK National Obesity Forum, warned against resorting to crash diets.
He said: "They can actually do more harm than good. Invariably weight is put back on, with some of the weight regained accumulating as visceral fat."
Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs, further explained: "It is the weight around your belly which really does the harm. A lot of these things take a while to get into people's heads especially as there has been so much focus on weight and body mass index.
"I'm not surprised at the findings because it will take more than a few academic papers to really change people's minds."