food & drink

The French Paradox

The long-running disagreement between butter lovers and olive oil lovers shows no sign of abating, even though there is overwhelming scientific evidence favouring olive oil as the healthier saturated fat. However, the French eat four times as much butter and 60 per cent more cheese than other nations, and still stay slim and healthy (although obesity is on the rise) with, allegedly, no more heart disease than anyone else.

The usual explanation is that they eat small portions of food, usually washed down with red wine. This is 'The French Paradox', that popular theory maintaining that while the French have a high consumption level of saturated fats, they have low levels of coronary heart disease. In the USA, when a TV programme indicated that France's high red wine consumption accounted for the country's lower incidence of cardiac disease, Americans' consumption of red wine increased by 40 per cent over the ensuing months.

But it is a myth. Why would just one country in the world not suffer from high levels of heart disease when its citizens overdose on saturated fats? The explanation is that authorities collect health statistics differently from other countries, resulting in related deaths not being recorded in the same way. In other words, the figures are rigged, though perhaps not intentionally.

Additional scientific studies have demonstrated that wine, beer, and even spirits, may promote a longer life, with no difference between the individual effects of any of them. So much for the magic of red wine and all this guff about resveratrol et al.