The French Paradox

The French Paradox

Eat fat…be slim and healthy. It sounds too good to be true and as an advert for a diet company you probably wouldn’t believe it but this statement has been true in France for centuries. Local Morzine magazine Yodel had a look into this paradox and here's what they un-earthed... 

The great French paradox has baffled dieticians and experts for years; how do the French eat high amounts of cream, butter and fat but have one of the lowest rates of coronary heart disease (CHD) in the world? According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, despite an intake of saturated fat that is 50% higher than the US, people in France have a 30-40% lower chance of developing CHD.

One element could be the portion sizes in France, which tend to be smaller than other countries. Compared to the US they are a massive 30-50% smaller, so despite the high level of fats, the calorie intake is a lot lower. The fats in these foods also act as a hunger suppressant, reducing the necessity for snacks which in the US amounts to an enormous $30 billion industry!
The most surprising theory is that this paradox can be explained by the consumption of red wine throughout the country. The 1995 Copenhagen Heart Study confirmed the health benefits of moderate but regular wine consumption.
There is an antioxidant in grape skins called resveratrol that aids weight loss and overall good health. In other words, sinking three bottles of Merlot every now and then will not have great benefits
for your health but regular glasses will! Drinking a little alcohol each day, particularly wine, has often since been associated with an increased life expectancy.
Goose and duck fats are also popular ingredients in French delicacies including pates and foie gras. These can help to keep cholesterol levels down as they have a composition that is closer to that of olive oil than butter.
Dr William Clower, author of ‘The French Don’t Diet Plan’ took time to answer a few questions yodel had about this theory…

What are the main factors that allow the French to live a long and healthy life? 

One factor is the quality of their foods, which can provide the powerful antioxidants and healthy oils that can stave off chronic diseases. But the other aspect is simply that the volume of food consumed is more appropriate for long-term health. In population studies, as well as research on experimental animals, smaller quantity consumption is associated with higher longevity.

Do you think the social nature of their meal times could help? 

Absolutely. Taking your time and sharing the meal with the people around you has a number of physiological consequences that help you become a more conscious eater – which, by the way, helps prevent you from over-consuming.

Can red wine really help you be healthy?

Yes. Red wine has a trove of polyphenols – as well as the currently popular resveratrol – which are wonderful for your heart. But, just as anything can become bad for you when it is over-consumed, the very same red wine that is good for your heart will become bad for your liver if you have too much.

Do you think there is a link between high fat foods and cholesterol or has this been disproven?

There are good fats and bad fats, just as there is good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. You very much need those healthy fats in your diet. So the idea that you should avoid foods with fats has certainly been disproven, as we learn more about the nature of those molecules and their relation to things such as heart disease.
If you have any questions for Dr Will Clower, he would be happy to answer them simply email him;


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