French Paradox

Definition - What does French Paradox mean?

The French Paradox is a catchphrase used to describe the seeming paradox of the high in saturated-fat diet of France that belies the low mortality rate due to coronary heart disease (CHD). In most countries, a high in saturated-fat diet leads to high incidents of CDH and death due to CHD. The catchphrase was first coined by French epidemiologists in the 1980s; the over-arching theory is that it is the regular consumption of red wine with meals combined with a "French diet" that prevents CHD, though this is yet to be proven.

WineFrog explains French Paradox

The French Paradox contradicts the belief that high in saturated-fat diet causes coronary heart disease (CHD). The paradox implies: 1) there is no a direct link between saturated fats and CHD; and 2) there is a element in the French diet that prevents CHD.

The first is discounted by studies completed in 40 countries. The study establishes a cholesterol-saturated fat index (CSI) and studies the relation between CSI and CHD. France had a CSI of 24 per 1,000 kcal and a CHD of 198, while Finland, for example, had a CSI of 26 and a CHD of 1,031. The World Health Organization states that saturated-fat intake in France is 16%, which should mean that the French are exposed to high risk of CHD; why this high CHD risk doesn’t translate to high CHD is the central question behind the French Paradox.

The low CHD in France is attributed to diet and red wine consumption. In France, meals are consumed slowly, made in smaller portions and cooked at home. They don’t consume sodas, snacks, processed food, caloric drinks (smoothies), minimal breads, multiple heavy meals, abundance of sugar and junk food. In addition, portions are smaller. Red wine plays a significant role; all meals are paired with wine.

Red wine has different characteristics that play a role in digestion and metabolism of fat. These include:
  • Flavonoids: reduces the susceptibility of human plasma and LDL cholesterol to lipid peroxidation.
  • Antioxidants from Flavonoids (Resveratrol and Quercetin): helps prevent the build-up of fatty deposits within the wall of the arteries.
  • Procyanidin: helps lower blood pressure and removes saturated fat.
  • HDL cholesterol: helps carry LDL cholesterol to the liver for reprocessing or excretion.
  • Piceatannol: inhibits fat cells and prevents them from becoming full- fledged fat.
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