The French paradox. It was a term that French scientists coined in 1980 in their paper on heart disease and fat intake. It refers to the fact that French people have relatively low levels of coronary heart disease, despite eating a diet high in saturated fat, especially when compared with people in Britain.
Some scientists pointed to the fact that French citizens drink more wine per capita than many other nations while looking to understand the paradox. Perhaps, they argued, red wine is some form of superfood with preventive properties.
The proof, however, that drinking red wine will help you avoid heart disease is quite weak. All of the evidence suggesting that individuals drinking small levels of alcohol have lower risks of heart disease is observational. Such experiments, mere associations, do not show cause and effect.
Moderate drinking, described for healthy women as one drink per day and for healthy men as two drinks per day, is generally considered safe. Yet to date, a long-term, randomized trial has never tested the health effects of alcohol.
Although some studies suggest that wine is better for the heart than beer or hard liquor, others do not, according to the Oct. 10, 2017 issue of Circulation in a review article on wine and cardiovascular health.
And it isn't surprising. The influence of drinking patterns from particular types of alcoholic drinks is difficult to tease out in many situations. For example, as part of a healthier trend, people prefer to drink red wine, perhaps a glass or two after a nice meal. Those habits can describe their heart health rather than their choice of alcohol.
Also, the French Paradox isn't exactly a paradox. Many researchers now agree that variables other than wine, such as lifestyle and dietary differences, as well as earlier under-reporting by French physicians of heart disease deaths, could account for the finding. What's more, there are lower rates of heart disease in Japan than in France, but the Japanese drink a lot of beer and clear spirits, but barely any red wine.
What about the red wine polyphenols that contain resveratrol, a compound widely marketed as a heart-protecting and anti-aging supplement?
Research in mice is convincing. But there is zero evidence of any benefit for people taking supplements with resveratrol. And you'd have to drink a hundred to a thousand glasses of red wine every day to get a sum equal to the health-enhancing doses in mice.
Be sure to limit yourself to moderate amounts if you love red wine. In the glass that you typically use, measure 5 ounces (which is equal to one serving).
Also, older men should be mindful that both the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society recommends that beginning at age 65, men should restrict their alcohol consumption to no more than a single drink per day. Changes in age, including a decreased capacity to metabolize alcohol, make higher concentrations dangerous irrespective of gender.