Resveratrol Conspiracy – Re-visited

This is not the first time that I am writing about Resveratrol, the chemical naturally occurring in wine and a few other foods which has some amazing therapeutic and disease preventing properties. In an era where people for the most part have become strongly chemophobic the overwhelming interest received by Resveratrol is extraordinary. Right or wrong people look with anxiety and disdain at the presence of nitrates and nitrites used to preserve the red color in processed meat, MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) used in instant soups and more to enhance flavor, sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate added to various foods as microbial inhibitors – to name a few. But with Resveratrol the attitude is totally different. The fascination with Resveratrol comes from its multifaceted functionalities. It has the ability to fight cardiac disease, to block certain types of cancers, to protect the brain from Alzheimer’s disease, to activate a “longevity” gene that extends the life span and recently discovered that it fights obesity. Resveratrol has very impressive credentials almost too good to be true.

The interest and discovery of Resveratrol can be attributed to a phenomenon that has been occupying scientists’ minds for a long time. The term “French Paradox” was first used by the French researcher Serge Menard in 1991 in a segment of 60 minutes where he stated that by US Standards the French do everything wrong in their diet habits eating fatty foods high in cholesterol while unexpectedly have 60% less incidents of heart attacks than Americans. What is it about the French that they can indulge in rich foods like pastries, cheeses and cream sauces while staying healthy and having a remarkably low obesity rate? This phenomenon has been investigated extensively and found to be related to both the lifestyle and wine drinking habits of the French people. For the French eating a regular meal is a celebration which is always accompanied with wine. France is the second highest wine consuming country in the world next to Vatican City, and followed by Slovenia, Croatia, Macedonia, Portugal and Switzerland.

While Resveratrol may be a contributing factor for the French Paradox it may not be the whole story. The French have a very high opinion of themselves thinking that they have the best culture, food, wine and way of life. They eat less and longer than Americans with the whole family together making every meal a food experience. The wine and conversation which follows the meal slows things down and plays an important role in their social rituals. They feel that being French is a marker for a higher social level of more aware people living a fuller life which makes them happier and healthier. Does this sound like a case of self-aggrandizement?


Chaim Gur-Arieh
Spring 2014