A model at the Pulp Fiction fashion show in Paris that represents society's diverse spectrum . Photo: AFP
The French, if the reputation is to be believed, manage to keep perfect waistlines all their lives.
Perhaps it's to do with the fact they are credited for having the best eating habits in the world and perhaps even the world's best school lunches?
But new figures suggest the longstanding reputation, that has been the subject of books like Why French Women don't Get Fat, is more myth than reality (or perhaps just based on a wealthy Paris elite).
The figures released on Tuesday reveal that over the age of 30, some 56.8 percent of French men are overweight or obese and 40.9 percent of French women of the same age also tip the scales as obese or overweight.
This comes from a study carried out by French researchers at the journal Bulletin épidémiologique hebdomadaire (BEH).
Researchers weighed 30,000 French people for the study, finding that 15.8 percent of the men classified as obese compared to 15.6 percent of women.
“This excess weight is a public health problem,” researcher Sébastien Czernichow told Le Figaro newspaper.
He noted, however, that while being overweight had links to diabetes and cardiovascular risks, having a high Body Mass Index didn't necessarily come with such health risks.
With hearty national dishes like fondue, tartiflette, andouillette, plus all the croissants and pain au chocolats, not to mention the macarons and the cheese, the French could be forgiven for bursting out of their trouser buttons.
Indeed, some people who register as obese according to the scale, which is a ratio of weight and height, were found to be “metabolically healthy”.
Researchers said they didn't have comparable data to determine whether obesity was becoming worse in France, but said they “feel the situation has improved a little”.
Age is one of the biggest risk factors with obesity, the study noted, with the proportion of obesity of people at the age of 30 around half that of those at the age of 60.
The study also noted that people with higher incomes were more likely to be in better shape. In fact, one in four of those earning a salary of under €1,000 a month were obese, compared to just one in ten of those earning over €4,200.
The statistics come after study published last week by Eurostat that found France to be slightly better than the EU average when it came to obesity, with 15.3 percent of French adults obese compared to 15.9 percent across the union.
The obesity rate in Britain was 20.1 percent, one of the highest in Europe along with Hungary, Latvia and Malta (26 percent).
The Eurostat figures showed that 15.3 percent of French men over the age of 18 were obese, a figure that was exactly the same for women of the same age.
The EU average for obesity was at 16.1 percent of the adult population for men and 15.7 percent for women, both higher than in France.
People with a BMI (body mass index) of 25 and higher are classified as overweight, while those with a BMI over 30 are obese.