The French Paradox


The Morning News has published a roundtable conversation I recently held via email with four French food bloggers to discuss their perspectives on the hugely popular diet book French Women Don't Get Fat, the "French paradox," and the similarities and differences between French and American food cultures.

I would like to thank Requia Badr of Chez Requia, Clotilde Dusoulier of Chocolate & Zucchini, Estelle Tracy of Le hamburger et le croissant, and Pascale Weeks of C'est moi qui l'ai fait, for their thoughtful contributions to this discussion.



What a fascinating conversation, Josh! Congratulations.


Great conversation and a lot of common sense advice. However, you all forgot the number-one reason French women don't get fat - they smoke like chimneys.


Tex: I don't, and neither does any of my French girlfriends! Cigarettes are just part of the equation.


"I have a lot of French friends in the U.S., and when I plan to visit them, they always ask me to bring them French products and especially chocolate. I discussed with friends who are back in France, and they were not able to tell me the American food they really miss…"

where do her friends live?
maybe she needs to get friends with access to the internet and a mailbox. I mean maybe they can stave off their longing with some vosges. i know she can't mean plain chocolate. you can get valrhona at trader joe's for chrissake.

"Really, I don’t know what we can learn from the American people. Maybe thanks to them we know what we have to avoid in terms of food and eating habits."

maybe she can learn how to express criticism in a courteous manner. i mean not from us, but maybe there is a class at her local community center or something.


i'm not a huge francophile, but eating is not something that should be tinkered with as much as we americans do. remember, this country just started getting really fat when the entire low-fat fad hit in the early 1990's (and now the opposite extreme, low-carb, has hit, producing an equally unpalatable range of "foodstuffs").

The reason that the French are thinner & healthier is that they take a decidedly more conservative approach to eating and diet. Three square meals a day, balanced, vegetables, don't snack, don't overdo it with dessert...any of this sound familiar?? It should--our mothers told us this as kids. It's when we decided to rebel and revolutionize our eating patterns with bizarre concoctions, "everyday indulgences", and nutritionally unbalanced (or nutritionally void) food, that's when our bodies and health took a turn for the worse...


After living in France for a year, my observation of the french food has to do with reading the labels. Even the boxed and canned foods are "real" foods. None of the flavor enhancers, preservatives and other unidentifiable garbage of modern american food. They also tend to eat their fat in butter, cheese, meat or extra virgin oils. This makes a really big difference in how our food is digested. Plus in American, the big change happened where we were suppose to eat veg oil only (remember evil cholesterol?). We now know that oil when hydrogenated is really bad for us. Vegetable oil is also processed with Hexene a petroleum by product.

When in France we use to play spot the American. One of the ways we could tell was if they were fat. Sad, very sad.


The French paradox refers to the phenomena that the French don’t eat a particularly healthy diet, yet the incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) is much lower than is northern European countries such as the UK. The most popular theory is that the French consume relatively higher units of alcohol in the form of red wine which in some way acts to protect them from CHD. Studies that have shown this based their discussions on correlations of the two variables. The problem correlation based evidence is that it infers everything but proves nothing.

A study by Vinson et al. (2001) investigated the relationship between cholesterol and alcohol. They fed hamsters a cholesterol diet for 10 weeks and supplied them with one of five fluids. These were:
half strength red wine
de alcoholised red wine (DARW)
grape juice
The results showed that all the drinks inhibited atherosclerosis compared to water. All drinks except ethanol decreased cholesterol when compared to water. Indicating that it’s probably not the alcohol content that protects against CHD. Only grape juice didn’t decrease high density lipoproteins (HDL’s – a good lipoprotein that transports the cholesterol from the tissues to the liver for removal). The authors discussed that when the concentration of polyphenols (anti-oxidant) in drinks are taken into account grape juice is the most effective. Compared to red wine or DARW grape juice is 2 x better at lowering cholesterol, 2-6 x better at lowering low density lipoproteins (bad), 2 x better at reducing atherosclerosis and a more efficient antioxidant.

Be careful when advising people to drink red wine to prolong health.

A famous English man one said about alcohol “ stirs up desire but takes away performance”. – W Shakespeare


Ohh! I really had a chat yesterday with my best friend that the European women are much more beautiful than the American ones. Seeing this book now, really made me wanna read it! I bet there are great secrets about diets and special meals… :P


very nice article thanks for the share


haha very funny title on that book. Is it true though?


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