The French paradox refers to the discrepancy that exists between French and U.S.-American life spans—and especially between rates of cardiovascular disease—despite allegedly similar diets high in saturated fat. The term was invented by researcher Serge Renaud, whose research let him to finger red wine and resveratrol, which are both now under investigation by many pharmaceutical companies and universities; this has led a number of wineries to make an attempt to get their product defined as health food.
The causal link to just saturated fat consumption and heart disease was later dispelled. Further, any real study of a typical French diet would show they eat smaller portions, more fresh foods, more fruits and vegetables, very little to no sugary drinks like sodas, and far less snacking between meals. Added to that, the French (along with most Europeans, if only due to the cost of petrol and insurance) do not drive short distances, like to a store or a mall - they walk.
Another explanation was proposed in a 1999 article in the British Medical Journal that the French Paradox may exist due to a time lag between the relatively recent increase in animal fat consumption in France and their heart disease mortality rates, similar to the time lag observed for smoking and lung cancer rates. Undercertification of ischemic heart disease during autopsies was also cited as a partial explanation.
Renaud ignored these things that dieticians have been saying for years to a largely deaf audience: less snacking, less sugary sodas, smaller portions, more fish, no partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, more exercise and almost no fried foods. Since this could not be packaged into pill form and sold, letting Americans cram whatever roamed by into their gullet, it was completely ignored by journalists.
As the French are becoming more and more like Americans, owning cars that they take short distances instead of walking, eating more junk food and fast-food, and living more sedentary lives, the disparity is lessening.
- http://heart.bmj.com/content/90/1/107.extract The French Paradox: Lessons for other countries.
- Harvard Medical School:Small Molecule Increases Lifespan and "Healthspan" of Obese Mice
- Baltimore Sun:Wine ads draw Surgeon General's ire Claim that mild drinking benefits heart is criticized
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19364995 A systematic review of the evidence supporting a causal link between dietary factors and coronary heart disease.
- Goldberg, David M.; Yan, Joseph; Soleas, George J. (2003). "Absorption of three wine-related polyphenols in three different matrices by healthy subjects". Clinical Biochemistry 36 (1): 79–87. doi:10.1016/S0009-9120(02)00397-1
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115846/ Why heart disease mortality is low in France: the time lag explanation.
- http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc2665194/ The French are getting fat, too.