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Help from Londoners, please


markk
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I was living in London in November 1991 when I read extensive coverage in most of the newspapers of a study showing that the French rate of death from heart disease was the lowest on earth, and that it was the rate in the Southwest of France that was so low as to pull the national average down to the world's lowest. One paper showed this as a graph with a broken axis. The study, led by Cyril Renaud, explained that of course the people in the region eat tremendous amounts of duck and goose, and not only cook with the fat, but spread it on their bread (and, then, "live well into their 90's"). This was dubbed the "French Paradox". The researchers attributed this to the mono-unsaturated nature of the duck and goose fat, previously unknown.

When I returned to the US, friends asked if I'd seen the shows about red wine being heart-healthy, and I didn't know what they were talking about. I pieced together that the famous "60 Minutes" show I had missed was about this same study, only with the conclusion that red wine is responsible for the paradox, with no mention at all of the duck and goose fat at all.

I remember extensive coverage in the London papers in November 1991 with sidebars and charts, but can find none of it now. Does anybody in London remember this or have access to the coverage?

THANKS.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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There are many articles about the French paradox and the importance of bioflavonoids in red wine, and also about the 60 Minutes program aired by CBS’s in 1991, but an archive search for an UK newspaper article won't go back as far as 1991. Maybe someone else knows a way. Let me know if you want more recent links about the subject in European newspapers

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I don't know how extensive it was, or how useful, but didn't Jeffrey Steingarten write a chapter on exactly that in 'The Man Who Would Eat Anything'?

I remember the early stories, but I can't say I was paying enough attention.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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You could always go to a ... library. (Gasp). This is a sort of primitive pre-Internet information storage device with limited search facilities.

I've been to several libraries. I'm not an idiot, and I wouldn't have thought that the posting of my inquiry the way I did deserved gasps and dots of drama.

But your use of the word "limited" hits the nail on the head here. The Tmes lists one article, but it has a word count of 409 (the articles I remember were significantly longer, often multiple coverage with sidebars, etc. in the same paper) and it's from a weekday (20 Nov. 1991) and two of us who were there remember gathering the Sunday papers and comparing (marveling at) the extensive coverage. In any event, we can't get a copy of even that short article here through any library, try as we do. And none of the other London papers has archive indexes that go back to 1991.

That's why I posted my question here - in the hopes that somebody might remember this study and be able to help. Egullet was the last place I expected to have somebody come on and post an insulting reply like yours!

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I don't know how extensive it was, or how useful, but didn't Jeffrey Steingarten write a chapter on exactly that in 'The Man Who Would Eat Anything'?

Yes. His is some of the only mention I can find anywhere in print that acknowledges that the paradox stems from the fact that it's the duck fat that's lowering the cholesterol. He also credits that the red wine may be a factor as well. But I'm remembering the London coverage because of one of the side-bars that sticks out in my mind. It was an article that said something like, "In Gascony, the typical farmer awakens at sunrise when the geese start honking, ambles to the kitchen, spreads a slice of last night's bread with congealed duck fat from a crock, pours a tumbler of rustic red wine, calls it breakfast - and lives to an average age of 90." That's a paraphrase, but I've always remembered it. And now I can't find any of the coverage. Two of us are sure we didn't make it up or remember it wrong!

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Unless your concern is with medical history, I wouldn't worry too much about finding those original articles. They were played for drama, and medical opinion has changed more than once since then.

I'd very much like to see them, AND I'd love to know how medical opinion has changed since then as well.

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I'm sure Balex is mourning the loss of libraries, not meaning to be insulting.

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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But your use of the word "limited" hits the nail on the head here. The Tmes lists one article, but it has a word count of 409 (the articles I remember were significantly longer, often multiple coverage with sidebars, etc. in the same paper) and it's from a weekday (20 Nov. 1991) and two of us who were there remember gathering the Sunday papers and comparing (marveling at) the extensive coverage. In any event, we can't get a copy of even that short article here through any library, try as we do. And none of the other London papers has archive indexes that go back to 1991.

That's why I posted my question here - in the hopes that somebody might remember this study and be able to help. Egullet was the last place I expected to have somebody come on and post an insulting reply like yours!

:wacko: I guess I should have sprinkled some more emoticons through my post above. No offense was intended.

I am not mourning the loss of libraries -- I hate them, they are slow and annoying and it is difficult to find what you want, and the British Library where I spend some of my time is over an hour away -- I use the internet as much as possible but unfortunately a lot of information has not yet been transferred to digital form and occasionally they are indispensable.

At least once a week I have to haul myself into some library or other and frankly it's a pain.

Now to show that I am not a complete asshole I shall try to be helpful. There is a recent article on the issue in Nature 414, 863 - 864 (2001) by Corder et al. snappily entitled "Endothelin-1 synthesis reduced by red wine". I suggest you find a copy of this, electronically :wink: , and trace the references back, and then forwards using a citation index.

The study you are thinking of is perhaps the one described here

"Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease."

Lancet. 1992 Jun 20;339(8808):1523-6.

Renaud S, de Lorgeril M.

Abstract available here

Cyril Renaud is a chef, not a scientist I think? The scientist one is Serge Renaud.

If you google for Renaud French Paradox you get a lot.

This doesn't help with your specific request about the Sunday Times, but the Sunday Times rates only slightly above the Weekly World news as far as reliability goes.

And I do confess I did not go to a library to find this stuff out.

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I am not mourning the loss of libraries -- I hate them, they are slow and annoying and it is difficult to find what you want . . .

I spent almost ten years working as an archivist and librarian in various capacities. As a protest, I vowed to write my MA thesis entirely out of sources in my own collection. I succeeded.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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You have probably discovered that unless you have a subscription, the Times of London only lets you search for a week's worth of articles. If it's the Times coverage from 1991, specifically, that you're after - and nobody you know has a password (though I also doubt their online archives go that far back but I could be wrong of course) you might try going directly to their customer service department, I'm sure they have paper archives too - or to INSERM (I think this is Institut National de Santé et Recherche Médicale) www.inserm.fr which is where Serge Renaud did his research.

As others have noted, though, Renaud's research has been oft-cited and thinking on this subject has indeed moved on - right now the main 'ingredients' thought to be beneficial in wine (and other alcohol) are anti-oxidants, and logically, the main benefits (both preventative and curative) are to the vascular "tree" - cardio and cerebral - such that alcohol seems to alleviate the effects of oxidation in the arteries leading to the brain and heart, for example, which leads to heart disease and arteriosclerosis (stroke, dementia). Also some evidence that alcohol reduces age-onset macular degeneration. A lot - though not all - of this research comesfrom the the Framingham study.

FYI - Of course we're talking moderate consumption here, though - the studies illustrate alcohol's effects on a "U" curve - e.g. that people who drank either nothing at all or way too much suffer ill effects, and people at the nadir of the "U" - moderate consumers - had the most benefit.

In fact the French paradox itself was noted well over a hundred years ago, and alcohol's potential health benefits have considered for thousands of years.

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. . . the studies illustrate alcohol's effects on a "U" curve - e.g. that people who drank either nothing at all or way too much suffer ill effects, and people at the nadir of the "U" - moderate consumers - had the most benefit.

In France, difficult to place the "U", inasmuch as until fairly recently an alcoholic was officially defined as someone who averaged more than three litres of wine a day.

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

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. . . the studies illustrate alcohol's effects on a "U" curve - e.g. that people who drank either nothing at all or way too much suffer ill effects, and people at the nadir of the "U" - moderate consumers - had the most benefit.

In France, difficult to place the "U", inasmuch as until fairly recently an alcoholic was officially defined as someone who averaged more than three litres of wine a day.

I guess in France they'd use a "J" :smile:

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The "French Paradox" has been with us for some time but subsequent research seems to indicate that diet has very little to do with it (although red wine may have some beneficial effect), but the reluctance of French doctors to certify death as being due to heart disease may have much more to do with it. They apparently have a tendency to omit what Basil Fawlty would call "the bleedin' obvious" and attribute cause of death to all sorts of obscure (secondary) causes.

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In fact, diet has everything to do with it.

The paradox is that *despite* a diet that seems high in fat, people in Mediterranean countries (not just France, but also Italy, Spain, etc.) have lower mortality (and morbidity I guess) rates than people with the same general demographic 'first world behavioural' profile in other countries, like the US. Regular (daily) consumption of moderate quantities of alcohol - of which wine is treated as food, and thus part of the diet - is commonly accepted as a major explanation for this paradox.

What researchers are now investigating is what it is about wine that 'overrides' the potential downsides of this diet. In fact the Med diet itself isn't as high in 'bad' fat, and certainly has far less refined sugar than the diet the non-Med first world countries. People in Med countries also tend to eat less (though this is changing).

To be honest, I haven't looked into whether the morb/mort rates in France etc. are artificial because heart disease isn't diagnosed as the primary cause of death - it's an interesting variable. People in Med countries supposedly also have lower rates of lung cancer (and they smoke) and other cancers. Are these under-reported as well?

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subsequent research seems to indicate that diet has very little to do with it (although red wine may have some beneficial effect), but the reluctance of French doctors to certify death as being due to heart disease may have much more to do with it. They apparently have a tendency to omit what Basil Fawlty would call "the bleedin' obvious" and attribute cause of death to all sorts of obscure (secondary) causes.

I'm no medico, but I though that explanation was set aside some time ago. see eg Law & Wald, BMJ May 1999 for the numbers (and several other explanations of the French paradox).

Stephen

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subsequent research seems to indicate that diet has very little to do with it (although red wine may have some beneficial effect), but the reluctance of French doctors to certify death as being due to heart disease may have much more to do with it.

I'm no medico, but I though that explanation was set aside some time ago. see eg Law & Wald, BMJ May 1999 for the numbers (and several other explanations of the French paradox).

Thank you! This was fascinating reading, especially all of the alternative explanations given. It was amazing to see that the original hypothesis, the mono-unsaturated nature of the duck and goose fat (in a cuisine which, unlike some Mediterranean zones, does not rely soley on monounsaturated fats) lowering the overall bad cholesterol and raising the good, was not even discussed! Hmmm. (Thanks again for this post.)

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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I'm no medico, but I though that explanation was set aside some time ago. see eg Law & Wald, BMJ May 1999 for the numbers (and several other explanations of the French paradox).

Fascinating article, it seems that (as I said) there is some under-reporting, 20% is the figure quoted, of heart disease but this of itself is not enough to explain the discrepancy. Given their conclusions, under-reporting is more significant than diet but not as important as reporting time-lag.

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Happy to help. I should be able to access CDROMS of the Times & Sunday Times 1990-2000, but I'm not sure how comprehensive they are, or when I'll get the opportunity to look.

That would be WONDERFUL whenever you get to it. I'm positive it'd have to be either Sunday November 17, or 24, 1991. Thanks a million!

Overheard at the Zabar’s prepared food counter in the 1970’s:

Woman (noticing a large bowl of cut fruit): “How much is the fruit salad?”

Counterman: “Three-ninety-eight a pound.”

Woman (incredulous, and loud): “THREE-NINETY EIGHT A POUND ????”

Counterman: “Who’s going to sit and cut fruit all day, lady… YOU?”

Newly updated: my online food photo extravaganza; cook-in/eat-out and photos from the 70's

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Share on other sites

subsequent research seems to indicate that diet has very little to do with it (although red wine may have some beneficial effect), but the reluctance of French doctors to certify death as being due to heart disease may have much more to do with it. They apparently have a tendency to omit what Basil Fawlty would call "the bleedin' obvious" and attribute cause of death to all sorts of obscure (secondary) causes.

I'm no medico, but I though that explanation was set aside some time ago. see eg Law & Wald, BMJ May 1999 for the numbers (and several other explanations of the French paradox).

Fascinating indeed as others have pointed out -- but very bad news for those of us who have been relying on this as a justification for massive consumption of red wine.

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subsequent research seems to indicate that diet has very little to do with it (although red wine may have some beneficial effect), but the reluctance of French doctors to certify death as being due to heart disease may have much more to do with it. They apparently have a tendency to omit what Basil Fawlty would call "the bleedin' obvious" and attribute cause of death to all sorts of obscure (secondary) causes.

I'm no medico, but I though that explanation was set aside some time ago. see eg Law & Wald, BMJ May 1999 for the numbers (and several other explanations of the French paradox).

Fascinating indeed as others have pointed out -- but very bad news for those of us who have been relying on this as a justification for massive consumption of red wine.

Waitasecond - I've been using you as a justification for massive consumption of red wine. Disaster!

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

Flickr Food

"111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321" Bruce Frigard 'Winesonoma' - RIP

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Bad news for *massive* consumption, yes - but good news for steady, medium consumption - standard 'recommendation' is about three glasses a day, the average recommended measure is about 20cl

Wouldn't that take you over the weekly units target, sorry recommended maximum? Or have I got my sums wrong?

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