More worryingly, 36 percent of the cases in the worst-hit southern regions of Campania and Puglia affect children – the highest percentage in Europe.
The government spends an estimated €67 billion a year on the direct and indirect costs of obesity, which has risen 25 percent since 1994, the association said.
Out of the six million, 1.5 million could benefit from surgery, but only 7,000 have had such operations, compared to 27,000 in France, the association went on to say. In the south, only one in seven opt to undergo surgery.
Lucchese Marcello, SIBAC’s president, said the problem is partly due to there only being 100 specialised centres across the country.
“A patient must then wait between six and 12 months to be operated on; waiting lists are therefore long and unsustainable.”
The rise in the number of fast-food outlets, replacing the traditional Italian diet, is also to blame.