The French Paradox (Red Wine and Cheese)

Hey again, welcome back! It's Blog Wednesday.


Yesterday I spent time searching the literature to provide you with a breakdown of the science behind the French Paradox. That is red wine, cheese and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD).

So, what did I find? Lots!!! It's a fairly complicated topic and as always, the evidence behind it is still unclear, multifactorial and forever changing but let's start at the beginning....

Firstly, the French Paradox was formulated in the 1980's by French scientists who thought that the high consumption of cheese and wine in the French diet was the reason for their low rates of CHD and death by CHD.

On further investigation it was found that the French consume a Mediterranean style diet that includes not only cheese and wine but also fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, olive oil and limited amounts of lean protein from fish and poultry.

Their theory was debunked; however, it did stimulate more research into the benefits of cheese and wine.

Grapes that make wine contain plant chemicals known as polyphenols. The most common one is Resveratrol. Resveratrol slows the ageing process with its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can boost brain performance. Polyphenols are also found in other fruits and vegetables too.

Cheese has a low glycemic index, high protein content and an abundance of vitamins (A, D, B6, B9) and minerals such as calcium. Cheese contains probiotic bacteria and some contain fungi that form peptides and macromolecules. These are what positively impact our cardiovascular system. Example cheeses include aged cheddar cheese and mouldy cheeses like Roquefort, Camembert and Gorgonzola.

Cheese and wine do have some beneficial properties so how much should you be including? Stick to current recommendations for alcohol intake- moderation is the key here. No more than 10 standard drinks per week. One standard drink of red wine is 100ml. Below is a link for the new Australian alcohol guidelines released in December 2020. https://www.health.gov.au/news/australian-alcohol-guidelines-revised

It is safe to say that cheese and dairy products can be consumed in moderation making sure to include a variety of types of cheese to reap the benefits. For example, Cheddar, Parmesan and those mouldy types mentioned above such as Roquefort, Camembert and Gorgonzola. Recommended cheese intake varies depending on gender, age and activity level and can be included alongside other beneficial dairy options such as kefir, yoghurt, milk or plant-based milk options depending on your preference. Chat to a Dietitian for further information on your daily requirements.

As always we encourage locally produced products where possible. Some South Australian cheese options include Alexandrina Cheese Company, South Cape Cheeses, Udder Delights, Barossa Valley Cheese Co, Paris Creek Farm and Woodside Cheese Wrights. Variety and moderation is always the key. Cheese and wine alone is not the answer to reducing risk of CHD so we shouldn’t eat and drink excessive amounts of it. Cheese and wine provide some beneficial properties within a healthy balanced diet that includes large amounts of fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts, seeds, olive oil, dairy and small amounts of locally sourced lean meat, poultry and fish.

Many thanks, Mattea Palombo Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) Accredited Nutritionist (AN) Adelaide Nutrition