The French Paradox: Resveratrol and Wine

When we think of France, we often think of fine art, fine fashion, and of course, fine food and drink. Indeed, most chefs agree that French cuisine is the pinnacle of the art of food preparation, and wines from France always garner top ratings with their high scores.

What is The French Paradox?

The French Paradox refers to the observation that even though the average French person's lifestyle consists of a diet that is higher in fat and less exercise when compared to the average American, the French have lower rates of heart disease and obesity than Americans.

Many scientists suggest that the French paradox may be due to the greater consumption of red wine in France. The red grapes from which red wine is made contain a high concentration of antioxidants which confer powerful health benefits, especially to the heart and blood vessels.

Red wine contains a very high concentration of a number of different antioxidants, including flavonoids and resveratrol. Although it was discovered only recently, resveratrol is currently the focus of many research studies to determine exactly how resveratrol conveys its benefits to improve health.

Anti-aging properties of resveratrol

According to the Mayo Clinic, resveratrol appears to be the principal ingredient found in red wine that conveys the majority of its health benefits. Resveratrol has been shown to reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol, prevent blood clots from forming, and protect blood vessels from damage.

Medical studies conducted by the National Institute on Aging and Harvard Medical School have found that resveratrol helped mice to stave off weight gain and maintain better health in spite of being fed a high-fat diet. Similar studies indicate that resveratrol has actually been a factor in increasing the life span of several different species of laboratory animals.

Wine and cardiovascular health

The component found in red wine that produces resveratrol is the skin of the red grapes. While some researchers proposed that similar benefits might be obtained from red or purple grape juice, it appears that red wine has by far the greatest concentration of resveratrol and other antioxidants that contribute to cardiovascular health. Some scientists hypothesize that this may be due to something in the wine fermentation process that activates the antioxidants, rendering them more potent.

While consuming too much wine can lead to other health problems such as liver damage, alcoholism, and certain cancers, most health experts now endorse drinking red wine in moderation. “Moderation” translates roughly to one five-ounce glass of red wine daily, although certain patients, such as those with a weakened heart or those that are pregnant, should not drink any wine at all. It's always a good idea to discuss your diet, including your alcohol consumption, with your health care provider.

So go ahead and enjoy that glass of red wine with your dinner; as the French would say, “A votre sante!” which means “To your health!”

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