French Paradox No More? France's Growing Obesity Rate

Written by Victoria Castillo

Think about French food, and you'll immediately think of cheese, sauces, wine...everything that would make your cardiologist frown. And yet, French people are perceived to be able to stay slim in spite of their penchant for these foods that are high in saturated fat or sugar, what is known as "the French paradox".

But that belief is gradually being shattered by rising obesity rates in France, which has become a cause of concern by the country's health ministry. What exactly is the culprit?

French pharmaceutical group ObÉpi-Roche released a state-funded study this October 2012. In the past 15 years, the obesity rate has doubled to 7 million French people, or 15% of the entire population. Those considered overweight on the BMI scale constitute a third of the population.

The French food culture and traditions that were key reasons why the French paradox flourished are slowly being eschewed by globalization and the rigors of modern living, according to an NPR report. "Malbouffe," the French word for junk food, is particularly popular among young adults who developed a predilection for fast food and packaged food. It's therefore no surprise that young adults are afflicted the worst by obesity, rising to 35%, solely within the age group, of 18-24 in the past three years.

Not even the country that prides itself on the best cuisine in the world can escape the lure of malbouffe. A return to French eating traditions can very well curb the growing obesity problem in the country. These include eating three regular meals a day, cooking fresh and quality ingredients, eating until properly satiated rather than full, and performing regular physical activity.


Dr. Jean-Michel Cohen
is the founder of The Parisian Diet, which is about the pleasure of eating and being able to eat all types of food.

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