A potential 26 million people living in the UK could be suffering from obesity in less than 20 years, clinical researchers have predicted.

A collation of studies have drawn attention to the worldwide trend of increasing obesity and claim that in Britain the health service could be forced into spending an extra £2bn a year solely to combat weight-related complications.

The predictions for the year 2030 also show that an additional 461,000 people would develop heart disease - “deeply worrying” news, according to the British Heart Foundation.

Publication of the papers, in The Lancet, comes ahead of the UN’s inaugural summit on non-communicable disease next month, which is aimed at discussing the potential financial and health complications which could arise if the issue of obesity is left untackled.

Around 15 million people in the UK are already classed as medically obese. Estimates at the current rate would suggest an increase of 11 million cases over the next two decades.

The British Heart Foundation’s associate director for prevention and care Dr Mike Knapton said: “These predicted figures for obesity and heart disease in the UK are deeply worrying and show how urgently action is needed. And it’s not just the UK, obesity is now a global pandemic fuelling diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. If we fail to tackle it now we’ll leave a legacy of people living poor quality lives and dying young.

“In the UK, we need our government to take the lead and make it easier to be healthier, such as by ensuring children are fully protected from junk food marketing on and off line.”

Health minister Anne Milton said: “We have no current plans to impose a ‘fat tax’, but we are working with food companies to reduce fat, sugar and salt and ensure healthier options are available.

“We also want to see businesses use more consistent and informative front-of-pack nutrition labelling than has been achieved in the past. The new EU Food Information Regulation, which will be agreed before the end of the year, will strengthen legislation on food labelling, in particular nutrition labelling.”