About nine million Australians over the age of 18 are overweight and childhood obesity rivals North American levels and exceeds those of Britain, the Medical Journal of Australia said on Sunday.

Combined with inactivity and poor nutrition, obesity is responsible for at least 10% of health problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancers, making the health effects as bad as those of tobacco, the journal said. 

In a separate study, it said Australian women spent a total of A$414 million ($306 million) each year in their quest to slim, with some women spending more than A$3000 annually. 

Reasons

Annual expenditure on commercial weight loss programmes -gyms, fitness equipment, personal trainers, weight loss pills, slimming products and meal replacements - averaged A$441 per woman. 

Yet all their efforts seem to be in vain as obesity rates continue to rise, the journal said. 

Bigger portions, cheaper processed foods, and heavy marketing of takeaway foods and soft drinks are among the factors driving obesity in Australia.