Thursday, November 02, 2006

Drink off your fat with (French) wine!

When you watch most American news, you can’t help noticing a quasi obsession for health. There is always some breakthrough discovery that if you eat this or that, you’ll live longer and better. Then, the following week, you are told the stuff you thought was good is actually bad for something else. It all gets very confusing...

But sometimes, just sometimes, this sort of news has the merit of putting some rational reasoning to justify something you enjoy doing anyway – like, eating more chocolate to live longer and be less depressed!

Last night, NBC news offered one of those moments (video here)and they called it “a major health story”.

It has to do the ageing process: scientists may have found a way to slow it down on at least animal testing by using a substance found in red wine that may actually extend life and could even override an unhealthy lifestyle.

This “magic” substance is called resveratrol (res-VAIR-uh-trawl) and is found in the skin of grapes and in red wine.

According to NBC news, scientists from Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging gave mice a diet “similar to chocolate cream pie for every meal”. (That’s beautiful!).

The researchers found out that those who had been given a large daily dose of resveratrol had few diseases and longer lives than the mice that didn’t get it.

In other words, you could have your cake and eat it too. No more guilt-ridden craving. Enjoy gluttony.

Well, there’s a catch of course:

To get enough of the stuff from red wine, you’d have to drink gallons a day; It is also made in supplements but you’d have to eat fistfuls of those a day.

In fact, another report suggests that “If you scale it up to human equivalents, it would be over 100 glasses of red wine a day, which is inadvisable—not to mention lethal.”.

It’s funny that no one mentions… just eating grapes then.

This is more in line with the topic of this blog than you may think. The NYTimes adds:

Resveratrol is [../…] conjectured to be a partial explanation for the French paradox, the puzzling fact that people in France tend to enjoy a high-fat diet yet suffer less heart disease than Americans.

True, the French are not as fat as the Americans:

  • 31% of Americans are considered obese while only 11% of the French are.
  • 64% of Americans are now overweight or obese compared to 41% of the French. (source NBC)

But to suggest that this is due to wine… would, according to this research, mean that the French drank a 100 glasses of wine a day. Puhhhleeez!

A healthier lifestyle may just be the reason. Here are some suggestions:

  • smaller portions served at home and in restaurants,
  • lunch and dinner served in several courses over the length of an hour or so makes less food seem like more.
  • more moderate activity: the average French adult achieves 30 to 60 minutes a day of moderate activity
  • the French tend to eat more vegetables and fruit than Americans. (they go more to traditional markets)

However, let’s kill the myth - this “healthy” lifestyle is changing rapidly. I see it everyday with my students. Despite what (some) Americans may think, even French women are getting fat! (despite what Mireille Guiliano's best seller "French Women Don't Get Fat," implies)

  • More fast food and prepared foods (with wine or water now often replaced by soft drinks)
  • Less time for lunches and dinners (the average French meal has decreased in length from an hour and 22 minutes in 1978 to just 38 minutes today). (IHT)
  • less physical activity (more video games for kids... and more "couch-potato" activities for adults)

And so, the consequence is a sharp rise in obesity - of 5% annually since 1997. (IHT)

But don’t you worry, "the (French) government is now trying to reverse the weight problem". Phew! It all got me worried for a while…. Of course, at the same time, the French may have a hard time catching up with Americans on this one too ... but give them some credit: at least, they ARE trying!


At 21:18, Anonymous Abie said...

A few typos :

you could have your cake and it too
no often

At 21:34, Blogger Joker & Thief said...

Thank you! Way too tired these days... (as if that was an excuse!)


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