When I was younger I visited France with my parents. I remember my mother being horrified when I was given a glass of red wine with my dinner, although it was topped off with at least 75% water.
I thought I was all grown up, but the other French children at the table didn’t bat an eyelid because to them it was normal. At every meal (apart from breakfast) a bottle of local red wine was on the table, plus an amazing selection of delicious foods.
The French way of cooking, especially in the north, comprises heavy sauces, red meat, cheese, cream and often fatty cold meats along with crusty whole grain breads, usually followed with a heart-cloggingly rich dessert. We won’t even mention the fabulous pastries, such as the hot buttery croissants served for breakfast! (Oops! I guess I just did…they are too good to leave out!)
Our hosts were not fat and neither were they alcoholics. That’s just the way the majority of French people lived back then.
Nearly 20 years ago this became known as the “French Paradox” The question was, how could the French and many of their fellow Europeans consume so much rich, fatty food without having all the side effects, like obesity, diabetes and heart problems? How could the Italian women shovel down pounds of pasta every week and still stay looking fabulous?
Someone had an Aha moment and starting looking at the grapes in red wine. They found a highly beneficial compound concentrated in the skins, called resveratrol.
As with most studies, all the initial tests were done on mice (it was incredibly tough to find little tiny wine glasses…) Once this beneficial compound was identified, tests began all over the world, and the results were very encouraging. In their experiments scientists reported that resveratrol showed positive results as an anti-cancer agent, acted as an anti-inflammatory and could lower blood-sugar levels plus it had other beneficial cardiovascular results too.
In one experiment half the mice were fed a high fat diet plus resveratrol and the other half were fed standard chow. Insulin and blood glucose levels in the mice that were on the high fat diet plus resveratrol were closer to those mice on the standard diet.
I’m certainly not going to compare the French with a bunch of mice BUT it would appear that the consumption of a resveratrol as a supplement was the reason why these mice had healthier hearts and fewer incidences of obesity, diabetes and other cancers.
Enough with the Mice!!!
I know, you’re probably asking what will resveratrol do for me?
Some of the major findings were:
• Resveratrol could help to strengthen your bones
• It could lower the risk of coronary heart disease
• It could inhibit the growth of cancer cells
Notice we say “could” because we still don’t have the results of extensive resveratrol testing on humans.
But I don’t drink Alcohol!
There are many reasons why people avoid alcohol, and we won’t go into them here. The advantages of taking resveratrol as a supplement is that one dose contains many times the concentration of resveratrol found in one glass of wine. And that’s a red wine with a high concentration of resveratrol, because all wines are not created equally.
What’s the best Wine to Drink?
If you do like the occasional glass of wine and wish to receive the many benefits of resveratrol, a California Pinot Noir has been shown to have the greatest concentration; Cabernet Sauvignon the least.
White wines contain no resveratrol at all, because the skins are not used in the process, just the grape pulp. This may be a clue when you look at German wine consumption. Nearly 90% of the wines grown and produced in Germany are white. Is that why Germans tend to be larger people? It’s a fact that Germany has the highest number of overweight people in Europe.
What Dr. Oz Says
Dr. Oz stated that “(Resveratrol) turns on a system in your body that prevents your cells from aging”. He also goes on to say that if you don’t drink red you can get some benefit from drinking Concord, or other dark grape juices.
He did not endorse the benefits of resveratrol as a scientifically-proven supplement. He couldn’t, because extensive studies on humans had not been conducted at that time. But it’s a fact that millions of moderate red wine drinkers obviously benefit from something – and more than likely it’s resveratrol.
It’s not just Dr Oz who’s talked about the benefits of red wine; many doctors agree it is beneficial for the heart, in moderation.
Antioxidants, such as flavinoids or resveratrol, have shown to have heart-healthy benefits. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols can also help to protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. Resveratrol may also reduce “bad” cholesterol and prevent blood clots which may also suggest that it could protect against obesity and diabetes. If you’re healthy, maintain your optimum weight, have a strong heart and low cholesterol, you’re bound to live longer!
After studying the so-called French Paradox, even the FDA stated that moderate consumption of red wine could beneficial. They rarely come out with a statement about anything unless it’s undergone extensive clinical trials on humans.
Three decades later I visited the same regions of France I’d been to in my early teenage years and I was shocked to see how things had changed. There were fast food outlets in places where family grocers and butchers used to be. Supermarkets abound, full of “convenience” foods with their inherent preservatives, processed ingredients and colorings.
McDonalds was seen as a cultural invasion for many years, but now with over 1100 of them in France, it has been accepted by the majority of the population. The menu is pretty much the same as in the US and the good news is you can get a glass of red wine with your McDo Baguette sandwich.
The children of French families who had been farmers for generations now work in offices in the cities. This new French generation is becoming much like Americans, leading sedentary lifestyles and spending hours in front of computers and televisions.
Long, leisurely family meals are becoming a thing of the past. Produce is brought in from who-knows-where and much is processed. It’s more chic for young people to drink a soda with dinner than a healthy glass of local red wine. The result of this? Obesity in France is increasing at an alarming rate, along with heart disease and diabetes.
The French still eat 30% more fat than Americans but suffer 40% fewer heart attacks
Except in truly rural areas, where produce is grown locally, small farms provide organic meats and free-range eggs and there is still a local butcher, greengrocer and baker and of course, somewhere where you can buy the local red wine – often from the grower’s own cellar. Residents still walk to these little shops, or hop on a bicycle to purchase whatever is in season.
These are the people who still look healthy and happy – and some of them appear to be very old. They still take the time to stop at a roadside café to enjoy a glass of wine and conversation. Ask any of these folks and they will agree that a glass of wine keeps them healthy, but of course that’s only part of the big picture.
Even if you can’t change your work week down from 50 hours to 35 like the French and enjoy a relaxed hour for lunch in a cozy bistro, you should take the time to eat healthy unprocessed foods and enjoy a glass of red wine with your meal in the evening.
In a glass, red wine can enhance conversation, help you relax and it will aid with digestion. Or if you don’t like the idea of drinking alcohol, enjoy a glass of Concord grape juice and take resveratrol as a supplement every day. Your heart will thank you.