The French Paradox: Why Are the French So Healthy?

the french paradox diet
Dr. Steven Pratt, MD, FACS, ABIHM

With Steve’s guidance, we created the original SuperFoodsRx grouping of 25 foods crucial to optimum human health. A diet rich in these SuperFoods forms the central concept of our nutritional recommendations.

You’ve probably heard of the French Paradox. It refers to the seeming contradiction discovered in regions of France where, despite a high intake of dairy fat, the people had low incidences of cardiovascular disease. At first it was believed that the alcohol in the wine was the factor that helped reduce their risk. As time went on, it was discovered that the paradox is only partly explained by the ability of alcohol to increase HDL or “good” cholesterol.

Recent research has concentrated on the ability of the flavonoids in wine to play an active role in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease. The extremely high level of polyphenols in red wine, which is about twenty to 50 times higher than white wine, is due to the incorporation of the grape skins in the fermenting process. The polyphenols in grape skins are known to prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, a critical event in the process of the development of coronary artery disease. As James Joseph at Tufts who did the original blueberry research put it, “What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.” Researchers have also noted a decreased risk of age-related macular degeneration with the consumption of limited amounts of red wine.

Of course health professionals are always cautious about recommending the consumption of alcohol because of its close association as a risk factor in other diseases. Nonetheless, for men who consume only a glass of red wine with dinner (or women who consume a half glass), the health benefits are positive.

If you want to enjoy most of the benefits of moderate consumption of red wine without the alcohol, drink purple grape juice, 100% dark cherry juice, 100% pomegranate juice, 100% cranberry juice, 100% prune juice with added lutein or alcohol-free red wine. Both purple grape juice and pomegranate juice have been shown to increase the antioxidants in your system. There’s nothing more refreshing than adding a splash of grape juice or pomegranate juice and a slice of lemon to seltzer. It’s a nice change from a plain old bottle of water and it provides a great antioxidant/phytonutrient bonus!

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