A campaign to update the French fashion sizing system could improve scientific knowledge of obesity and diabetes, thanks to a deal struck between medical researchers and the country's fashion industry.

The agreement, part of the National Sizing Campaign, will see doctors and researchers working in the lower socio-economic suburbs of northern Paris join the French Textile and Clothing Industry (IFTH) in measuring 10,000 people by the end of 2004.

Beginning at the start of this year, the campaign is the first attempt at gaining a representative measurement of the French public since 1973.

Data is being gathered through the use of state-of-the-art, three-dimensional body-scanning booths in retail outlets, to measure customers between the ages of five and 70.

Despite allegedly skewed results, the campaign has so far uncovered an average height difference of three to four centimetres between the French population now and thirty years ago.

"We needed to update clothes sizes left unchanged for 30 years," IFTH head Dominique Chamussy explained.

"We needed to shed new light on the French men and women of today."

Other results obtained from the 3000 people measured so far revealed 20 per cent to be carrying excess body weight and 10 per cent to be suffering from obesity.

"Human morphology has changed over the years, and obesity and excess weight are spreading," Seine-Saint-Denis public health service head Jean-Louis Pauc said.

The campaign is expected to provide data linking morphology to metabolic problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.