David Byrne, the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, has warned that obese children may be storing up a future health disaster.

Byrne was speaking to endorse the theme of this year's World Heart Day, which took place on Sunday 26 September, and focused on the link between childhood obesity and heart disease. Overweight children are three to five times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke before they reach the age of 65 than children with a normal weight.

"Our message is sombre but clear: the obese children of today will be the middle age heart attack victims of tomorrow. With one in every three children in some European countries now overweight, this should give us pause for thought. Urgent action is needed if we are to head off a health disaster," Byrne said.

Heart disease is already the leading cause of death in the EU, accounting for half of all deaths. The disease is estimated to cost EU countries some €180bn (US$220.7bn) a year in healthcare costs and lost working days. If rates of heart disease were to increase it could spell disaster for Europe's society and devastation for its economy.