French paradox

The French Paradox: myth or reality?


It appears, statistically it was observed that Frenchmen eat richer and fatter foods than Americans or Britishers but incidence of coronary artery disease (CVD) among Frenchmen is lower than Americans/Britishers. It is stated thatalmost 36% of total food intake by French is fatty food highest among Americans and british

Death rate from heart disease among Frenchmen is found to be almost one quarter of deaths among Americans. Further one third of Americans are obese as compared to only ten percent among Frenchmen although Americans eat lesser richer and fatter food than Frenchmen.

The belief among medical World that richer and fatter foods cause CVD was negatived by this phenomenon

This is known as “French paradox” in the International medical world.

Mr Phillip J Goscienski –a medical doctor (MD) and an American has analysed the causes. His article is reproduced below for reading by those who are interested.

Philip J. Goscienski, M.D.

June 2005

It's true that the incidence of coronary artery disease among Frenchmen is lower than that in their American counterparts even though they eat richer, fattier foods. The reported death rate from heart disease among Frenchmen is about one quarter that of persons living in the United States or Great Britain. This is called the French Paradox. About one third of Americans are obese but only about 10 percent of the French are. It seems unfair until you take a close look.

The French eat more saturated fat than we do but their energy intake overall is less than ours by about 100 to 200 calories per day. Looking conservatively at the lower figure that amounts to about 10 pounds per year!

The French eat 75 percent of their meals at home but Americans eat almost half of theirs (44 percent) away from home, largely in fast-food places that are not particularly well known for nutritional excellence or restraint. Dining out in America is a big deal. Whether it's a burger joint or all-you-can-eat Chinese, a serving in America is 25 to 100 percent larger than a similar dish in France.

So why aren't the French hungry all the time? One answer is cultural. Eating is almost a ritual experience in France. They take the time to prepare meals from scratch, not from a can or box, and their vegetables are likely to be home grown. They also eat slowly. Two hours for lunch is more the routine than the exception. That gives their appetite control mechanism plenty of time to work as it's supposed to. We Americans short-circuit ours by bolting down our food.

Their high-fat diet is actually an advantage in controlling hunger. Fats are more filling than carbohydrates and don't cause the roller coaster swings in blood sugar (glucose) that lead to cravings and eventually to type 2 diabetes. The fruits and vegetables that form a large part of the diet in France contain carbohydrates but they don't affect blood glucose the way that refined flour and sugar do.

The French diet is richer in heart-protective antioxidants than ours because of those fruits and vegetables. Leafy green vegetables contain folic acid, a nutrient that is associated with lower levels of blood pressure, a major risk factor in heart disease.

Could drinking wine make a difference? Red wine lowers the concentration of a substance called endothelin that is harmful to the lining of blood vessels. Red wine also contains beneficial antioxidants. Persons who average one drink per day of any alcoholic beverage lower their risk of heart disease. The benefits diminish as the amount of alcohol one takes increases, and alcoholism is a serious problem in France. Alcohol-related deaths are three times as numerous in France as in the United Kingdom.

In a generation or two the French Paradox may no longer exist. They are catching up with us. As they adopt more of our lifestyle - fast food, sitting in front of a TV set or computer - their blood cholesterol levels and rates of coronary artery disease are beginning to approach ours.

The French Paradox is becoming, as the French would say, passé.

21 Replies

  • this type of large statistical studies

    we individuals may not be able to interpret easily.

    so let it remain paradoxical.and we follow recommendations.

    i will give another.

    there was research on Eskimos. they eat mostly marine food full of fat.practically no vegetable.

    they are very healthy people.

    so it was argued that they had different genes.

    so research was conducted on Eskimos

    who migrated out of polar regions.

    they had the usual problems of local people.


    one has to be Eskimo and at the poles to be healthy with the polar food.

    the above is an approximate understanding of

    that which

    came as an article in the readers digest. i can give volume number if you require.

    it may not be easy to swallow these paradoxes

    good luck.

  • No need .

  • Mr india cratutus

    What is your comments on French eating lower calories, cooking food at home from scratch

    taking long time to eat lunch as against gulping food quickly ,home grown vegetables, habits, of spending more time on TV computer ,other sedentary habits,etc. ,Do these make any difference on our ability for digestion and assimilation of food?

  • raoji,

    it may be their long eating time that causes the consumption of smaller amount of food.

    because in the long duration meal

    the food that has gone inside already

    may cause a bs rise and a corresponding signal to brain regarding 'enough'

    this thing i know in practice. when i take a meal i take a break in the middle for this or that work.when i return to the second half of the meal i feel a fullness ,total consumption is less.

    the rest of the things are as you pointed out.

    good luck

  • Indiacratus, till 1960's lunch was used to be main meal for the French people. Usually this lunch was prepared by the lady of the house and generally it was five course meal. Table ettiquite warranted that next course is to be served only after finishing the previous course and it took time. Lunch later on followed by vine. So not surprising it took so much time. The lunch break in France is for two hours. Just for information sake.

  • dear patliputra,

    agreed. it could be. my knowledge of western meal is limited.though i stayed in a European union country with my daughter we were having only indian food at home.

    when we ate in hotels also my daughter ordered only, more or less, Indian food.

    we were indians everywhere.

    once an english man told me: how correctly and easily ,you talk english. i said india was a british colony.

    i noticed the change in expression of my daughter-

    later she told me:

    father why you said colony?

    she would order food on line to avoid delay.

    so sit at table, eat in a single gulp.

    you know i am a poor man in Kerala , upper middle class when i stay with my son and when with my daughter with all western facilities.

    but one thing i know

    most of the kiosks all sorts of food is available. one can choose simple or complex food.

    i generally choose food with the least complication.

    my knowledge of the many course dinners are only from what in some hotels in india. that too very few occasions.

    i never went to usa.

    though my daughter was there three four years.

    but i don't think there is drastic difference in eating in usa or any european country because we order only things we like.

    this type of several variable issues like life style and eating etc it may not be easy to discern and make a conclusion by individuals.

    but one thing is certain. if we over eat we have to pay in proportion to that.

    good luck.

  • an anecdote.

    i told my children once:

    in my presence ,

    do not disturb the middle class basis of the family.

    my daughter replied to her brother standing nearby-

    his pants and shirt-middle class,

    but his chapels are that of the beggars,

    she added quickly,

    he talks upper class English.

    they all laughed. i had to join.

    that is what i am.

    good luck


  • I agree with Indiacratus. As long as i was in USA the FBS /PPS were very much in control and normal range. three months after reaching India the figures change . It is the living condition place and food habits make all the changes in life


  • Mr Ranga

    What was the change in food habits when you returned to india that contributed to change in BSL figures?

  • Mr. Ragirao, only the spices and chilli powder i use in India.


  • dear rengaji and raoji,

    that was probably mostly the temperature.

    when i was in New Zealand i was taking 50 percent more food than in India ,but i lost some kilos.

    there it was very cold. temperature around 16 degree Celsius only. iwas eating mostly same food both in india and new daughter cooking with the same indian spices. exactly as my wife prepares.there was a gujrati indian shop


    good luck

  • Well it was a paradox because Ancel Keys rejected all countries that did not fit his BROKEN theory. Reject a data and then call it PARADOX. Easy escape route. Nothing new.

    What about MASAI? Another paradox?

  • who is ancel keys? What is a broken diet?

  • Ancel keys has been talked a lot of time here. He was the one who became a superhero of low fat nonsense though a fudged study.

    Broken diet is a diet that increases sales of drugs.

  • masai?if you know post here

  • Yes I know. It has been posted many times, starting with Anup, the guy who introduced LCHF on this forum more than 2 years back and was chased away by a few -- so he started his own forum on LCHF for Indian diabetics:

    So, no point repeating it.

  • The writer has very conveniently forgotten about carbohydrate in the diet. There is talk only about fat. It is commonly known that traditionally French diet is low in carbohydrate and refines flour is shunned . Then there is habit of cooking and eating at home,so virtually no packaged food . So no injurious oils and sugar in any form.

    It is a very brief comment on the article and not on the person.

  • appears so.What about vegetables?

  • Fruits and vegetables do provide some carbohydrate ,but very little compared to cereals.

  • Rajivji, A good paradox.Let it exist.So let us emulate that life style.What is the harm? Life is ours.It is our decision to do that. I congratulate you again in bringing this article.Thanks.

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