Excess fat has become the latest foreign invader in France, following on the heels of running shoes, burgers and Hollywood films, according to a survey made public on Wednesday.

Researchers said the study was commissioned to determine wheth-er being overweight, which it noted was of growing concern in the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany and Sweden, was now becoming a serious problem in France.Sadly, the answer was yes.

"Obesity, a plague that has come from the other side of the Atlantic, is poisoning Europe to the point of worrying the World Health Organization," said the French daily Le Parisien.

"The American model, though too fat, is easily exported," lamented the daily France-Soir.

The survey was conducted by the national medical research institute INSERM, pollster SOFRES and the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche Holding AG.

Using definitions set by the World Health Organisation, the study found that 16 million people, or 37 percent of the French population, were overweight.

The study pointed no fingers, but dieticians have been warning for years that the French are gradually going the way of the Americans, eating more and more high-fat fast food and getting less and less exercise.