Fatty food takes its toll of the French
By Colin Randall, in Paris
The Telegraph
(Filed: 20/09/2006)

The carefully cultivated image of the French as a nation that eats well but stays slim suffered a serious setback yesterday when a study showed that nearly 20 million people were overweight or obese.

The appeal of American-style fast food, snacks between meals and a sedentary way of life has led to young women piling on the pounds even more quickly than men, the study said. It showed that almost a third of the population had weight problems.

Ten per cent of women born between 1966 and 1972 are obese, on average 20 years earlier than their mothers' generation. Men, especially those in high income professions, are more likely to take care to keep their weight down.

MPs, doctors and dietary experts say that one child in five could soon be overweight. The best-selling writer Mireille Guiliano says that France could "wake up in 10 or 15 years looking like America".

The study, called ObEpi 2006, in an abbreviation of the World Health Organisation's judgment that obesity is an international epidemic, shows that France, with a population of about 63 million, has 2.3 million more obese people than nine years ago.

People in lower income groups are much more likely to put on excess weight, vindicating critics who suggested that Miss Guiliano's book, French Women Don't Get Fat, was misleading because it applied mainly to middle-class Parisians.

Acknowledging that ordinary people probably found it harder to keep in shape, she modified the translation of her book, which appeared subsequently in France under the title Those French Women Who Don't Get Fat.

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