The Matter of the French Paradox

Is wine really good for you? A few months ago, 60 Minutes ran an exciting T.V. segment on medi­cal researchers in this area. 60M’s narrator, Morley Safer, pointed out that although people in France con­sume 30 percent more fat than we do, and exercise less, and even smoke more, a middle-aged Amer­ican man has a three times greater chance of dying of a heart attack than a Frenchman of the same age!

The following quotes, taken from the show, were made by re­searchers Dr. Kurt Ellison, a cardi­ologist and professor at the School of Public Health at Boston Univer­sity and Dr. Serge Renaud, the head of Lyon Centre.

60M: Dr. Ellison’s reason for coming to Lyon is to study the findings at INSERM, the French equivalent of the National Insti­tutes of Health…There has been for years the belief by doctors in many countries that alcohol, in particular red wine, reduces the risk of heart disease. Now it’s been all but confirmed.

The wine apparently affects the platelets, the smallest of the blood cells. It is platelets that cause blood to clot. They prevent bleed­ing. But they also cling to rough, fatty deposits on the artery walls, clogging and finally blocking the artery and causing a heart attack. The wine has a flushing affect. It removes platelets from the artery wall…

Dr. Renaud: It’s well-documented that really… a moderate intake of alcohol, prevents coronary heart disease by as much as 50 per­cent… I mean there is no other drug that is being so efficient as moderate intake of alcohol…

60M: When you say a moderate in­take of alcohol with meals, what do you mean?

Dr. Renaud: I mean a few glasses of wine per day. If you’re just sticking to that, you will never get drunk, you will never get any…apparently any adverse effect of this intake of alcohol…

60M: The intake of wine per capita in France is higher than anywhere else in the world. The United States’ intake is among the lowest. Wine in France is part of every lunch and dinner, and there is a dizzying variety to choose from…

Dr. Ellison:...if you…had half A bottle every day with your meal, over several hours, it may well be that you are protecting the heart by decreasing the stickiness of your platelets.

60M: The evidence of the benefits of alcohol in moderation keeps growing. As part of a continuing study, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health looked at 44,000 Americans between 40 and 75 years old and found that those who drank light to moderate amounts of alcohol had a 25 to 40 percent less chance of developing heart disease. Moderate is definec, as two drinks a day.

A votre sante!

P.K.

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