The obesity problem is part of a global crisis, an expert warns Men in Hong Kong have got fatter over the past 12 years but women have been shedding the kilos, according to researchers. Data showed 38.3 per cent of men were overweight and 4.3 per cent were considered obese in 2002. This compared with 27.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent respectively in 1990, according to the Hong Kong Association for the Study of Obesity. But women have been shedding weight. In 2002, 22.7 per cent of women were overweight, compared with 27.9 per cent in 1990. Those considered obese also slid from 4.8 per cent to 3.4 per cent. Body mass index is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their height in metres. A normal reading is between 18.5 and 22.99, overweight is 23 to 24.99 and obese 25 to 29.99. The association said its data was based on analysing research conducted by Chinese University. The organisation's vice-president, Gary Ko Tin-choi, said women in Hong Kong had been overwhelmed by slimming ads in recent years and many had tried to lose weight. He warned that many women whose weight was within a healthy range had also been influenced to try to lose weight. Lo Kwok-wing, vice-convenor of the Hong Kong Primary Care Foundation, said some popular slimming methods were myths. These included drugs which carried claims they could increase metabolism and reduce calorie intake. He said only a few prescription drugs were capable of achieving such results. Dr Lo also said there was no scientific evidence to show that massage treatments which claimed to stimulate the lymphatic system helped reduce weight. He said a well-balanced diet and regular exercise were the only ways to combat obesity. Meanwhile, Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Taskforce, warned that the obesity problem was a 'global crisis' not confined to the US and western countries. It was spreading to Asia and developing countries. Professor James said the American food industry was marketing its products in developing countries to increase intakes of fattening and unhealthy junk food. He said the World Health Organisation had identified obesity as one of the major health problems worldwide. 'There are big problems with the food industry, especially the sugar industry. All the big international [food] companies are based in America or northern Europe,' he said. 'They try to increase their sales by making meals bigger to attract customers. They also manipulate children to increase the intake of their products rather than their traditional meals. Their next big opportunity is the developing world.' The body mass index of Hong Kong people is comparable with Taiwan, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Thailand and the mainland. On Friday, researchers from the University of Hong Kong announced that lack of exercise kills more people than smoking in Hong Kong. The team found inactivity causes more than 6,400 deaths a year, compared with 5,700 from smoking.