Well, we've all heard of it, we've all practiced it, and we've all used it to explain that extra glass of wine at dinner. What am I talking about? The French paradigm. It's the belief that the French stay skinny because they eat a diet high in mono-unsaturated fats and drink lots of red wine. (By the way, it's the grapes, not the alcohol, that contains beneficial polyphenols and resveratrol). However, this pardigm may just become a Mediterranean myth, because drinking healthy phytonutrients and including olive oil in your diet is not the whole picture to achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.
In his book, Ultra Metabolism, Mark Hyman debunks the belief that the French are fit from wine and oil. He explains that the real reason behind this seeming contraindication of pleasure seeking Europeans and health are due to the fact that the French eat real food, eat less food, eat slower, and walk more. These reasons may not be as appealing to quick-fix diet seekers, but they do withstand the test of time.
Eating less food and walking more are self-explanatory, but what about eating slower? Marc David's book, The Slow Down Diet, discusses the biochemical differences in digestion that occur as a result of eating for pleasure versus eating in a hurried, stressful state. High stress eating decreases absorption of nutrients because digestive enzyme production is suppressed under stress. Your body determines that the most crucial place for energy during a run-in with a saber tooth tiger is to your muscles, not your gut.This is modulated by an increase in cortisol output, the stress hormone. Cortisol increases insulin release to bring sugar into the muscle cells, this decreases blood sugar levels and causes you to feel more hungry, even though you just ate!
My favorite reason for the French paradigm: the French eat local, fresh, minimally processed foods which are bought on a daily basis. The new field of nutrigenomics studies how nutrition effects your DNA expression and ability to modulate risk factors of disease. Although eating kale and high methyl-containing vegetables won't change your DNA, these beneficial compounds can interact with cell receptors and modulate cancer oncogene expression to your favor. In other words, good foods can help your body at the cellular level to prevent disease. Therefore, you literally become what you eat, be it a Twinkie or a piece of broccoli.
In health and wellness,
For more information and references:
The Genotype Diet. Peter D'Adamo, ND
Ultra-Metabolism. Mark Hyman, MD
The Biology of Belief. Bruce Lipton, PhD