Back to articles

The "French Paradox"

Although most people probably do not drink wine for its potential health benefits, it can be interesting to learn what a glass of wine can offer besides enjoyment!

Numerous laboratory and epidemiological studies have shown that the consumption of wine in moderation can have a beneficial effect on health and especially on the prevention of pathogens in the human body. It is directly related to the concept of the Mediterranean diet, since it holds a special place in its pyramid. This diet revolves around plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, lean meat, olive oil, and red wine. 

In 1992, researchers Renaud and De Lorgeril reported lower cardiovascular deaths in France than in other Nordic countries, particularly England, despite saturated fat and cholesterol intake in France being similar or even higher due to the high amount of full-fat dairy products included in French cuisine. This apparent contradictory topic has become popularized by books such as “French Women Don’t Get Fat” by Mireille Guiliano, as well as several others. The researchers called this phenomenon the "French paradox," and have concluded that there must be a relationship between red wine consumption and overall health. Later studies also found evidence of a positive effect of moderate alcohol consumption on reducing mortality. In 1999, a study conducted on 36,250 French adults showed that moderate consumption of red wine (not other alcoholic beverages) reduced mortality by 12–18 years (Renaud et al. 1999)!

Wine contains important nutrients for humans that enhance our physical and mental state. These ingredients are alcohol, vitamins, acids, minerals, trace elements and polyphenols (tannins, antioxidants, and anthocyanins). The most important of these antioxidants in red wine is called resveratrol. It comes from the skin of the grapes, which is why it is only present in red wines. 

The beneficial properties of wine, when consumed in moderation, are as follows (Healthline, 2017; Mayo Clinic, 2019):

  • Reduces the level of low-density lipoproteins, which make up the so-called bad cholesterol (LDL)
  • Increases the level of high-density lipoproteins, which make up good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Can prevent against heart disease
  • Reduces triglycerides
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Reduces the formation of blood clots
  • Minimizes the risk of inflammation 
  • Protects against dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease
  • Decreases the risk of having a stroke
  • Has a strong antioxidant effect against various forms of cancer
  • Fights free radicals and strengthens the immune system
  • Decreases oxidative damage in the body
  • Has strong antimicrobial, antibacterial and antiallergic action
  • Helps better digestion of food, while preventing the occurrence of gastrointestinal infections caused by bacteria
  • Reduces the risk of developing diabetes and can decrease insulin resistance
  • Increases the number of heartbeats, strengthens the breathing, and dilates the vessels of the body, having a positive effect on the central nervous system
  • Provides a protective role for menopausal women as it increases estrogen levels
  • Can decrease fat cells in the body to help maintain a healthy weight
  • May act to reduce stress and anxiety

Despite all of these incredible health benefits of red wine, it is not without its faults. It is important to know that consuming large amounts of wine will not have the aforementioned benefits, and on the contrary, it can do significant damage. Alcohol in excess can cause many problems in the body such as addiction, depression, arrhythmias, liver problems, stroke, hypertension, and more. It is not recommended to exceed one glass of alcohol a day for women, and not more than two for men, while also abstaining from alcohol a few days a week. Wine in moderation can be a healthy addition to your life, and we recommend a delicious and enjoyable glass of red wine shared with friends. Not only will this be a pleasant experience, but it can also benefit your physical and mental well-being. Cheers!

 

References:

Bjarnadotter, A. (2017, June 4). Red wine: Good or bad? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/red-wine-good-or-bad 

Mayo Clinic (2019, October 22). Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281 

Renaud, S. C., Guéguen, R., Siest, G., & Salamon, R. (1999). Wine, beer, and mortality in middle-aged men from eastern France. Arch Intern Med., 159(16), 1865–1870. doi:10.1001/archinte.159.16.1865

Renaud, S. & de Lorgeril, M. (1992). Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. The Lancet, 339(8808), 1523-1526. https://doi.org/10.1016/0140-6736(92)91277-F