Towns and cities need to be radically redesigned to help tackle the obesity epidemic, scientists were told yesterday.
Professor Philip James, chairman of the International Obesity Task Force, a London-based think-tank, called for a revolution in urban planning to encourage people to use cars less and public transport more.
He told a conference of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston that it was naive to expect people to lose weight by making better choices about diet and exercise when their surroundings encouraged inactivity.
Urban designers had created an "obesogenic environment" by planning public spaces around the car. Transport systems that made it easier to drive than to walk, cycle or take public transport were the worst contributors to obesity.
He also blamed the rise of desk-bound office work and sedentary leisure activities such as watching television, surfing the internet and playing computer games. Lifts and escalators, and even labour-saving devices such as electric toothbrushes and can-openers added to the problem.
"Blaming individuals for their personal vulnerability to weight gain is no longer acceptable in a world where the majority is already overweight and obesity is rising everywhere," said Professor James.
"It is naive of ill-informed politicians and food industry executives to place the onus on individuals making 'healthier choices'."
The Times, London