NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 26, 2006

As the rate of obesity in France rises, the country might lose its skinny crown, says the Economist.

According to researchers:

  • The rate of obesity in France has started to swell, rising from 8 percent of the adult population in 1977 to 11 percent by 2003.
  • Over 40 percent of the French are now considered overweight, and France has the same share of fat people today as America did in 1991 -- and an upward trend to match.
  • Even though French figures are based on polls asking people if they are fat, denial inevitably intrudes causing self-reporting to produce underestimates.

Either way, France's politicians have started to notice; in October, a parliamentary report called for a public health campaign and a law has been passed to impose a 1.5 percent tax on the advertising budget of food companies if they do not encourage healthy eating, says the Economist.

But what has happened to France's waistline? The simple answer: France has latched on to the fast-food culture:

  • France is one of the biggest and most profitable European markets for McDonald's.
  • Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) fast-food joints are spreading across the country.
  • Frozen pizzas and fizzy drinks are also nibbling away at the traditional family mean, particularly in poorer households.

Source: Editorial, "Gross National Product," Economist, December 24, 2005.

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