France may be the first country in the European Union to display signs of a leveling off in the prevalence of childhood obesity
, new research suggests.
As in other European nations, France's level of childhood obesity has been rising in recent years, although the country still boasts one of the lowest prevalence rates in Europe.
Experts at the French National Institute for Health Surveillance compared the prevalence of obesity among seven to nine-year-olds in 2000 and 2007.
They found that 18.1 per cent of the 1,582 children studied in 2000 were overweight, including 3.8 per cent who were obese.
In 2007, 15.8 per cent of the 1,014 children studied were overweight, including three per cent who were obese.
Dr Katia Castetbon, head of the institute's Nutritional Epidemiology and Surveillance Unit, commented: "Public health policy has changed a lot in France since 2000, but we cannot prove that the stabilisation is due to these interventions.
"There has been an increased awareness of the issue of obesity in children and it's possible that this general awareness has had some impact."
Professor Jean-Michel Oppert, president-elect of the European Association for the Study of Obesity, commented: "It remains to be seen whether this observed stabilisation will last. It's only the first suggestion that it could be levelling off."
The research, which was presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Geneva, also revealed that children from lower socioeconomic backgrounds face a higher risk of obesity than those from richer communities.
Professor Oppert noted that this "shows the importance of the need to identify the most at-risk groups and develop approaches that are oriented to them".