Obesity in France

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Obesity in France has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent years. It is now considered a political issue whereas before it would have been an issue reported on television talk shows or in women's magazines just a few years prior. Obesity in children is growing at a faster rate than obesity in adults.


France is ranked as the 128th fattest country.[1]

Obesity levels in France have doubled between 1995 and 2004 (to 11.3% of the population).[2] However, France has the lowest obesity rate in Europe.[3]

Nord-Pas-de-Calais is considered the fattest region in France. Fifty-one percent of the population here is considered either overweight or obese. This is in contrast with France's national average at 42 percent.[4] Between 1992 and 2000, in the region, obesity in girls doubled while the total for boys grew by 195%.[5]

Recent history[edit]

Obesity in France has been increasingly cited as a major health issue in recent years. It is now considered a political issue whereas before it would have been an issue reported on television talk shows or in women's magazines just a few years prior.[4]

France became the first European Union country to state that childhood obesity rates have started to level off while drastic increase in childhood obesity rates continue in most European countries. France is approximately ranked in the middle European childhood obesity rates rankings.[6] Researchers have said this is caused from "government policies, a growing awareness of the dangers of obesity and the fact that children are eating less".[6]

McDonald's is more profitable in France than anywhere else in Europe. Sales have increased 42% over the past five years.[4] Some 1.2 million French, or 2 percent of the population, eat there every day.[4]


Historically, France has been known for its slender people and longevity. This has led to their role as the "nutritional role model for Europe".[5]

Mireille Guiliano wrote the book French Women Don't Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure in which claims French women eating in the traditional way are less inclined to be obese than their American counterparts. This book is not based on science and leaves much out about French culture and government that contributes to those who fit this stereotype.


Blame has been put on fast food, prepared food, the widespread presences of unhealthy snacks, sedentary lifestyle and the loss of "common food culture".[2][4] The French tradition of not opening the refrigerator between meals for a child isn't as prevalent it once was.[4] Fat content in the French diet has increased steadily to the point where it is predicted that obesity-related diseases will start to increase.[3]

The French connect food to pleasure and they enjoy eating, considering meals a celebration of their cuisine.[7]


Several studies have shown that obese men tend to have a lower sperm count, fewer rapidly mobile sperm and fewer progressively motile sperm compared to normal-weight men.[8] Researchers in France have said that poor children were up to three times more likely to be obese compared with wealthier children.[6]

In French society, the main economic subgroup that is affected by obesity is the lower class so they perceive obesity as a problem related to social inequality.[7]


In September 2005, France passed a law banning soda-and-snack-selling vending machines from public schools and misleading television and print food advertising.[4] France also put in place 1.5% tax on the advertising budgets of food companies that did not encourage healthy eating.[4]

French politicians have considered obesity rate serious enough that they got local communities to govern their overweight and obesity levels[9] through a program called Epode (acronym for "Ensemble, prévenons l'obésité des enfants", "Together let's prevent obesity in children"). Six years after the program has started, it has been considered a success with obesity rates lowered up to 25% in some communities.[9] The cost of the program is €2 a day per child.[5][9] Due to cultural issues brought in from immigration, there is no exact program format;[5] though, a town implementing the program must offer a "menu Epode", which comprises dishes considered healthy.[5]


Overall, the French, along with the Italians and the Swiss, are considered among the slimmest people in Europe on average.[10] 38.5% of men and 26% of women in France are considered overweight while 60% of men and 43% of women in Germany are considered overweight.[11] Estimates show that 16% of French five-to-11-year-olds are obese. Obesity in that age is set to increase to more than 20% by 2010.

Obesity in children is growing at a faster rate than obesity in adults. Obesity in children is growing at a rate of 17% while obesity in adults is growing at a rate of 6%.[4] Recent studies show a slowdown in the growth of obesity in France especially for children.[12]

Forbes 2007 ranking[edit]

Source: Forbes.com[1]

Ranking Country Percentage
123 South Korea 42.0
124 Swaziland 41.8
125 Kazakhstan 41.4
126 Moldova 41.1
127 Bhutan 40.9
128 France 40.9
129 Cameroon 39.9
130 Maldives 39.9
131 Algeria 39.8
132 North Korea 39.4
133 Kyrgyzstan 39.2


  1. ^ a b "World's Fattest Countries". Forbes. 8 February 2007. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Rosenthal, Elisabeth (4 May 2005). "Even the French are fighting obesity". New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  3. ^ a b "Why So Few French Are Fat". Business Week. 3 July 2001. Retrieved 3 July 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Sciolino, Elaine (25 January 2006). "France Battles a Problem That Grows and Grows: Fat". New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Lambert, Victoria (8 March 2008). "The French children learning to fight obesity". London: The Telegraph. Retrieved 5 July 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c "Child obesity rates level off in France". New York Times. 15 May 2010. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  7. ^ a b Saguy, Abigail, Gruys, Kjerstin, and Gong, Shanna. “Social Problem Construction and National Context: News Reporting on “Overweight” and “Obesity” in the United States and France.” Social Problems 57.4 (2010): 586-610. Web
  8. ^ "Obesity linked to lower sperm count in young men". Reuters. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 25 September 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Reid, Melanie (29 May 2009). "Small-town France the key to solving Scotland's obesity epidemic". The Times (London). Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  10. ^ "New obesity report says world is fatter, rounder, less productive". Deutsche Welle. 4 February 2011. Retrieved 4 February 2011. 
  11. ^ "Germany is getting fatter". The Local. 2 June 2010. Retrieved 28 June 2010. 
  12. ^ http://www.rfi.fr/france/20121016-obesite-france-probleme-gagne-terrain