American researchers from Pennsylvania University recently spent some time researching why the French remain so much slimmer than Americans. After intensive study, they came to a remarkable conclusion.
It was because the French ate less.
The lazy reaction would be to mock a study that produced a seemingly obvious conclusion, yet the rest of this pop article makes clear that the conclusion was not necessarily obvious. The French diet is not noteably low fat, nor is it an Atkins diet -- if anything it's carbohydrate heavy. Meals seem large enough at first sight. It turns out that the individual meal components may be high calorie, but portion sizes are often quite small. Snack intake is also relatively limited. The net effect is limited caloric intake.
I suspect a study of New Yorkers, who are quite a bit slimmer than we midwesterners, would produce a similar result.
This does not explain French lifespans, which are relatively long considering their tobacco use. That's still an interesting research topic. Is it genetic drift, or consumption of anti-aging ingredients in red wine? Noone knows.
The primary lessons is that obesity is NOT an inevitable consequence of prosperity. It is possible that we will develop cultural adaptations to abundance, as the French have, that will lessen obesity. It would also help if cities and suburbs were to facilitate physical activity through light rail, walking and bicycling paths, parks, sidewalks, etc.