Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The French Paradox

Lately I've been thinking alot about my health and wondering what I need to do to improve my long term outlook. Yesterday I stumbled upon this link found it quite enlightening. How is it that the French can eat a diet that contains large amounts of butter, cream, and other foods rich in artery-clogging ‘unhealthy’ saturated fats, yet nationally their rates of heart disease are quite low? The French don’t diet and don’t spend hours working out in the gym. This is, of course, seen as a paradox because conventional wisdom has it that such a diet should increase heart disease rates - but they are actually among the lowest in the world. The article cites a few theories on why the French do so well with their unhealthy diet. These include:

1. Associating food with pleasure, not health.
2. Small portion size.
3. Red wine habit.
4. Food quality over quantity.
5. Home cooking tradition.
6. "No snacking" habit.
7. Water instead of pop.
8. Walking and naturally active lives.
9. Self discipline.

Most of these I have heard before and are sense but it's interesting to see how when they all come together into shared cultural values and lifestyles and what the benefit is to overall health. Number one was especially interesting: maybe instead of fixating on food's health value we should instead look at it's pleasure value? Obviously if you eat too much of a certain food (everything in moderation) you begin to enjoy it less. Also, in the article it expands on each of the 9 theories and the insights on self-discipline and the eschewing of diets (number 9) strikes me as very different understandings of such ideas then we would have in North America. I think the French have lots to teach us. For more food paradoxes, check out this article.

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