The French paradox refers to the fact that although the French consume three times as much saturated fat as Americans, one-third less French people die from heart attacks and obesity than American people. Puzzled American scientists and other health experts from around the world have tried to discover the "secret" behind the French paradox. Most French insist that the only "secret" is in watching portion sizes and daily fat intake as well as choosing fresh foods over processed foods and deny that there is a "French paradox."
The French eat rich foods such as cream, butter, pastry and rich cheeses, but they also consume red wine and olive oil. Researchers have found olive oil to be a heart-healthy source of fat. However, the olive oil the French consume does not rule out the high amounts of saturated fats they still eat, and therefore does not properly explain the French paradox. On the other hand, studies at Harvard Medical School have shown that a chemical in red wine called resveratrol reverses the coronary and obesity effects of a diet high in fat and calories in mice.
When resveratrol was given to lab mice, the mice ran twice as far on a treadmill than they had previously and also had a reduced heart rate. The mice also lived longer than mice who had not received the resveratrol. The findings led to a marked increase in red wine sales in the United States despite the fact that the amount of resveratrol given to the mice would be the human equivalent to drinking hundreds of glasses of wine a day. Once again, the French paradox was unsolved.
The French themselves tend to stress that they lower their coronary risks by watching portion sizes and the amount of fat eaten in a day. Discipline, moderation, and balance, many French insist, are the most important health "secrets" and they do not see a French paradox. Mireille Guiliano, in her 2004 best selling book, French Women Don't Get Fat, agrees that the "secret" to the coronary health of the French is eating whatever you want, but in moderation, and agrees there is no French paradox. Many French people are often appalled at American portion sizes.