OBESITY is more prevalent among Church of Scotland members than any other religious group north of the Border, including those with no affiliation.

Analysis of official Scottish Health Survey findings, from the Scottish Government, shows followers of Buddhism and Hinduism have better waistlines, with just 15% classed as obese.

Among non-religious groups, studies show 26% suffer from obesity, but the rate is 30% among Church of Scotland members.

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Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus were the most likely religious groups in Scotland to eat five fruit and vege-tables a day. Some schools of Buddhism forbid eating meat and of Scottish Buddhists those eating the recommended number of fruit and vegetables was the highest at 63%.

Dr Gerry McCartney, head of the Public Health Observatory Division for NHS Health Scotland, said many other factors, as well as the dietary rules of the different religions may help explain the findings.

While the Scottish Health Survey analysts took age into account, they did not adjust results for obesity risk factors, such as deprivation. Differences in wealth profiles or locations of religious groups may influence lifestyle choices more than faith itself.

However, Dr McCartney also said the culture of some religions may indirectly promote good health by, for example, supporting the equal distribution of wealth among members.

The study, out yesterday, found mental well being among Catholics was signifi-cantly lower than average.

An Equality and Human Rights Commission Scotland spokesman said: "This survey appears to be a very useful overview of the health of all Scotland's people, and underlines that, unfortunately, experiencing worse outcomes is not just about where you live, but also about who you are."

Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said while data "must provide useful information to health care professionals," she felt the link between deprivation and poor health was more a concern.