French paradox

The French paradox, a paradoxical epidemiological observation that French people have a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD), while having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats, in contradiction to the belief that the high consumption of such fats is a risk factor for CHD. 

It has also been suggested that the French paradox is an illusion, created in part by differences in the way that French authorities collect health statistics, as compared to other countries, and in part by the long-term effects, in the coronary health of French citizens, of changes in dietary patterns which were adopted years earlier.

Studies suggest a diet based on southwestern Mediterranean cuisine; which is high in omega-3 oils, antioxidants and includes moderate consumption of red wine; created lower cases of cancer, myocardial infarction and cardiovascular disease; partly through increasing HDL cholesterol whilst reducing LDL cholesterol.

The French paradox might actually be an illusion, caused by two statistical distortions: about 20% of the difference in the observed rates of CHD between France and the United Kingdom to the under-certification of CHD in France, relative to the UK, if there is a delay in serum cholesterol concentrations increasing and a subsequent increase in ischaemic heart disease mortality, then the current rate of mortality from CHD is more likely to be linked to past levels of serum cholesterol and fat consumption than to current serum cholesterol levels and patterns of fat consumption. 

Explanation: mortality from heart disease across countries, including France, correlates strongly with levels of animal fat consumption and serum cholesterol in the past 30 years.

The French population has become increasingly overweight.with women showing a greater tendency toward obesity than men.

The overall impact of the popular perception that the French paradox is a real phenomenon: the impression that France’s high levels of red wine consumption accounted for much of the country’s lower incidence of cardiac disease. 

Within a year, the consumption of red wine in the United States had increased by 40% and some wine sellers began promoting their products as health food.

The cultural impact of the French paradox can be seen in the large number of book titles in the diet-and-health field which purport to give the reader access to the secrets behind the paradox.

Some researchers have thrown into question the entire claimed connection between natural saturated fat consumption and cardiovascular disease. 

Three major factors likely to be involved in the paradox:

Walking-On average, French people walk briskly much more often than Americans.

Water-on average, French people drink more water and fewer sweetened drinks than Americans.

Fruit and vegetables-On average, French people consume more fresh fruits and vegetables than Americans do.

French people get up to 80% of their fat intake from dairy and vegetable sources, including whole milk, cheeses, and whole milk yogurt.

Higher quantities of fish, at least three times a week.

Smaller portions, eaten more slowly and divided among courses that let the body begin to digest food already consumed before more food is added.

Lower sugar intake than American as low-fat and no-fat foods often contain high concentrations of sugar. 

French diets avoid these products preferring full-fat versions without added sugar.

Low incidence of snacks between meals.

Avoidance of common American food items, such as soda, deep-fried foods, snack foods, and especially prepared foods which can typically make up a large percentage of the foods found in American grocery stores.

A higher percentage of French people smoke, this is not greatly higher than the U.S. (35% in France vs. 25% in U.S.) and is unlikely to account for the weight difference between countries.

Savoring food to increase the feeling of satisfaction, choosing a small amount of high quality food rather than larger amounts of low quality food

Eating 3 meals a day and not snacking.

Taking in plenty of liquid such as water, herbal tea and soup.

Sitting down and eating mindfully, with no multitasking and eating while standing up, watching TV, or reading.

Emphasizing freshness, variety, balance, and, above all, pleasure.

One proposed explanation of the French paradox regards possible effects, epigenetic or otherwise, of dietary improvements in the first months and years of life, exerted across multiple generations.

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