THE myth that Frenchwomen do not get fat has been exploded with a major nutrition study showing 32% of Frenchwomen are now overweight or obese. For men the figure is 46%.
The study also shown that globalisation has yet to make a significant impact on French food choices as regional preferences remain strong.
People were judged to eat more healthily in the south than north - more fruit, vegetables and fish, less potatoes and charcuterie.
The online study (www.etude-nutrinet-sante.fr) has so far recruited more than 100,000 people to report on their eating habits (31,000 contributors were included in this their first report). The study was launched six months ago with organisers including the Paris-Nord University and the Health Ministry.
It aims to survey half a million French residents and hopes to be the world's biggest-ever nutrition study.
The goal is for participants to report at intervals over a five-year period to see how their diet is affecting their health. However the first results have offered a snapshot of what people eat across France - and what they weigh.
On the whole the results confirm stereotypes - people from Basse Normandie eat the most butter (22% more than the national average), the most olive oil is consumed in Paca (91% above average).
Less obvious findings were that Bretons are not keen on cheese (but love seafood) and people from Poitou-Charentes shun charcuterie.
The diverse findings also include the fact that people with higher incomes eat more healthily, women eat more fruit and vegetables than men and over-55s eat 70% more of them than under-25s. Men eat more meat, charcuterie and potatoes than women, and people eat more bread as they get older.
The study also looked at obesity trends with 11% of both men and women being obese.
The Nord-Pas-de-Calais has the most (18%) and the Midi-Pyrénées the least (7%).
In general the areas with the most obesity are in the north and east, those with the least, the west and south. Only 5% of women and 2% of men are considered underweight.
Among those of normal weight, 30% of women and 13% of men think they are too fat and 63% of women and 30% of men would like to weigh less.
Researcher Serge Hercberg said: “A France of butter and a France of olive oil is an enduring factor - and the regions of the north and east are characterised by intake that is less favourable to well-balanced nutrition.” However economic factors were also important he said - the well-off eat twice as much fish as those on low incomes, who, in turn, eat more charcuterie.