Are the French Getting Fatter Too?


Amid the barrage of anti-obesity campaigns and distressing statistics here in the United States, it’s hard not to be a little jealous of the French.  After all, they are legendarily able to stay slim, despite the buttery temptations of French pastries.  But it seems that now the French (like Greeks and Italians) are succumbing to the pitfalls of globalized eating habits.

NPR reports that “nearly 14 percent of the French adult population is now obese, compared with 8 percent just 10 years ago.”  French doctors blame urbanization and immigration for the change, saying that young people are uninterested in learning how to cook, and that the rituals of mealtime are slowly becoming less important.  Obesity is particularly bad in rural areas, where people drive more than in the cities, and among the poor.  It sounds a little like the United States.

The secret to France’s health lies, according to most, in their love of fresh ingredients and ability to restrict portion size.  ”The French know how to cook and prepare food,” Dr. Jean Marc Catheline told NPR. “French families have always known what’s good for them and what isn’t. We are also a country with strong rural traditions and great respect for food from the farm.”

Others point to American pop culture as a possible culprit.  The French traditionally restrict their eating to mealtimes, but seeing characters constantly snacking on TV could change people’s relationships to food.

The French government is already alarmed by the climbing obesity statistics.  In May, France’s Ministry of Higher Education and Research “announced a commitment of $185 million as part of its future investment scheme dedicated solely toward obesity-related research,” according to Nature Medicine.

Getting people to cook for themselves again could be the key.  After all, as Catheline observes, “Knowing how to cook might not keep you from being overweight, but it will keep you from being obese.”

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Photo from Francis Storr via flickr.


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Jane R.
Jane R7 years ago

Am I supposed to care? Let everyone eat what they want. If they get fat it's their own fault.

Sheri P.
Sheri P7 years ago

YUM! That picture of the cheese is making my mouth water!

Melinda K.
Past Member 7 years ago

thanks for the article and the great comments. A time poor society is an unhealthy one!

Ernest R.
Ernest R7 years ago

France is an excellent example of the cultural devastation caused by globalization and immigration {diversity}which alter local environments. Cultural integrity requires a degree of isolation for its maintenance. It is nourished by its surroundings. The North American thirst for diversity is destroying the diversity of human cultures, while pushing a McCulture. An improvement ? Maybe where you live ?

Lauryn Slotnick
Lauryn S7 years ago

Eh, the headline makes it sound like it could be the French habits and culture making them "fat," but the article says just the opposite. No news there.

Dianne Robertson
Dianne Robertson7 years ago

Eating is often an emotional response to stress or anxiety.I notice that weight changes are taking place more quickly among rural and poor people where economic and lifestyle changes are probably more rapid.The spread of "Fast food"would have no allure without the accompanying life style. High fat meat,bread and fried potatoes snack-meals completely loose the previous ethic of fresh fruit and vegetables and "portion control". Will W.'s leap to blame "Feminists" probably does explain one of the new and stressful changes.If the women no longer spend all their time preparing food, people have to think for themselves. Rejecting MOM'S way of eating may be an angry response to her abandoning her post in the kitchen. When people feel "deprived" they tend to fill their emptyness with quantity not carefully selected quality. But the well known college freshman 20 pound weight gain is probably more related to lack of Knowledge or effort than abandonment issues.

Mara C.
Past Member 7 years ago

Thank you.

Suzanne H.
Suzanne H7 years ago

Mother Earth gave us everything to makes us strong, healthy and hopefully wise....Big Agra business has killed our food, poisened our water and dirted our air........Not a good combination to keep us animals alive!

Elizabeth K.
Elizabeth K7 years ago

Will, you seriously think women work because feminists told them too?

What a moronic statement; they work because most households need 2 incomes to survive.