The French population has been reported to have a relatively low rate of coronary artery disease (CAD) despite eating lots of cheese, croissants, and liver pate and having blood lipid levels similar to other Westernized countries.
Much has been made of this seeming paradox by the U.S. media. However, the unusually low rate of CAD now appears to be more myth than paradox. According to British cardiologist Hugh Tunstall-Pedoe, who did an exhaustive analysis of the WHO mortality data, “The truth is not that heart disease is less prevalent among the French, but that many deaths from heart attacks simply aren’t reported that way”. It turns out that the French have an unusually high death rate from “sudden death” that is not further classified. According to Dr. Tunstell-Pedoe “when French heart disease statistics are adjusted to take into account this discrepancy, the incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) mortality is not much different from other Westernized nations.”
The French, the highest wine consumers among Westernized nations, may receive some protection from their consumption of red wine. As we have seen, much of the beneficial effect of red wine is probably the result of the alcohol itself. However, there is some evidence that phenolic compounds in red wine may reduce LDL oxidation.There is also evidence that red but not white wine improves blood flow to the heart by causing vasodilation of small blood vessels. It is interesting to note that several glasses of purple grape juice can also produce similar effects but with all that extra sugar, you may see a modest increase of cholesterol and triglycerides.
The French have a very high incidence of cirrhosis of the liver. Alcohol also is the cause of many accidents and increases the risk for several types of cancer so a recommendation to consume more wine is questionable.
A sure and safer way to reduce the risk of CVD and overall morbidity and mortality is to reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake and consume more soluble fiber-rich foods. A more vegetarian diet with more beans in place of meat and poultry appears ideal for lowering cholesterol and decreasing CAD. In addition, an increased intake of phenolic compounds from fruits and vegetables has also been shown to reduce the risk of CAD, probably because consumption of fruits and vegetables increases the plasma antioxidant capacity in humans.
(Excerpted from our upcoming diet and heart disease CPE course.)
Judy’s passion for cooking began with helping her grandmother make raisin oatmeal for breakfast. From there she earned her first food service job at 15, was accepted to the world famous Culinary Institute of America at 18 (where she graduated second in her class), and went on to the Fachschule Richemont in Switzerland where she focused on pastry arts and baking. But after learning that the quality of a croissant directly varies with how much butter it has, Judy sought to challenge herself by coming up with recipes that were as healthy as they were tasty.
Judy received The Culinary Institute of America’s Pro Chef II certification, the American Culinary Federation Bronze Medal, Gold Medal, and ACF Chef of the Year. Her enthusiasm for eating nutritiously and deliciously leads her to constantly innovate and use the latest in nutritional science to guide her creativity, from putting new twists on fajitas to adapting Italian brownies to include ingredients like toasted nuts and cooked honey. Judy’s publishing company, Food and Health Communications, is dedicated to her vision that everyone can make food that tastes as good as it is for you.