The French Paradox, a term devised to rationalise the ‘decadent’ French diet, dripping in saturated fats from cheese, pate, butter, cream and alcohol from wine which runs contrary to low rates of cardiovascular disease in the French population.
Previous studies often focused on resveratrol, the antioxidant in red wine as an explanation of the paradox but, studies have found that the fermented milk components in cheese stimulate the production of an intestinal enzyme called alkaline phosphatase. This could have benefits in addition to wine by reducing systemic inflammation resulting in improved cardiovascular health.
The image of a sumptuous wedge of cheese and bottle of aged red wine is considered forbidden by current dogma yet years of research show that a French diet may lower incidence of heart disease. Although the beneficial properties of antioxidants in red wine may go some way to explain the French Paradox, the benefits may actually lie with cheese and the enzyme alkaline phosphatase.
In 1992, Serge Renaud and Michel De Lorgeril theorised that the abundance of saturated fat in the French diet was mitigated by the consumption of red wine. They noted that alcohol inhibited platelet aggregation, which in turn reduced the risk of cardiovascular disease. Following studies supported this “red wine hypothesis” and looked deeper into the polyphenols, most notably resveratrol and that moderate consumption of red wine has been correlated with reduced CVD.
In 2012 Ivan M. Petyaev and Yuriy K. Bashmakov offered a solution to the French Paradox, when they noted that the consumption of cheese, “especially the mouldy varieties,” may be the answer to the paradox. It is said that these ripened cheeses contain anti-inflammatory and probiotic benefits.
Further studies supported the “dairy products” hypothesis by suggesting that milk components, including casein, calcium, and lactose, stimulate production of the alkaline phosphatase and thus reduce inflammation and so the mystery of the French Paradox may lie with cheese and a tipple or two of red wine.