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Lessons to learn from France + bonus recipe.

As Ireland take on France today in the first round of the Six Nations rugby tournament, I thought I would make France the focus of my next blog. (#COYBIG!!!!)

In the 1980’s the term the “French paradox” gained a lot of attention. At the time, researchers noted that in most countries a high consumption of animal products was positively associated with coronary heart disease (CHD), meaning that the more animal products consumed, the higher the rate of CHD and related deaths. However, France appeared not to follow this association. According to the data, France, although had a high intake of animal products, had a low CHD rate. Many potential explanations were put forward; most notably that wine and vegetable consumption were thought to be playing a protective role. Of course it was reported widely in media- "eat cheese, drink wine, don't increase CHD risk!".

This graph was used to highlight the association between cholesterol saturated fat intake (through animal products) and CHD death rate. As you can see, France appears to have high intakes but low CHD death rate (although consumption similar to Finland).

Many studies claimed to prove the French paradox:

  • Criqui & Ringel 1994 stated that France had the highest wine and total alcohol intake, but 2nd lowest CHD mortality rate in the world.

  • Renaud & de Lorgeri 1992 cited epidemiological (disease incidence over time) evidence that alcohol must play a protective role against CHD, claiming that in pilot studies alcohol appeared to inhibit platelet aggregation, i.e. the formation of plaques that block arteries.

  • Rimm et al. 1996 stated that observational studies provided evidence that all alcoholic drinks could be linked to a lower CHD risk.

  • Several studies believed an anti-oxidant called resveratrol was responsible for reduced CHD with wine consumption.

However, the data which first highlighted the so-called paradox was found to be inaccurate, with French doctors apparently under-reporting CHD deaths by up to 20% by the World Health Organisation. When this 20% was added to the original data, France came right in line with other countries in terms of CHD risk and animal product consumption (move the France dot in the graph up around 20%). Furthermore, later research into resveratrol could find no link between increasing intake of this anti-oxidant and cardiovascular health. Consider the French paradox debunked!

But, are there other lessons we could learn from the French? Certainly!

  • The French are renowned for their enjoyment of food- so much so that in 2010 French gastronomy was awarded UNESCO World Heritage status. In France, meals are created to be tasty and satisfying, eating is considered an experience to be savoured and food is often enjoyed with family and friends around the table.

  • France has one of the lowest retirement ages, with citizens allowed to receive the state pension aged 62 and many individuals retiring before 60. This contributes to a better work-life balance, for which France ranks 12th in OECD countries.

  • France was the first country to ban supermarkets throwing away or destroying unsold food in 2016, instead encouraging supermarkets to make arrangements with charities for distribution to those in need. (Although the law has not been completely successful at ensuring food is passed on efficiently, it is a step in a positive direction).

  • In 2015, French parliament passed a law requiring magazines to mention whether photos had been photo shopped or retouched and requiring models to obtain a medical certificate to prove their health in terms of weight (not being under-weight) and mental health etc. French designers also banned the use of underage models and the use of models sized less than a UK size 6.

Another interesting fact- France produces almost 1 billion tonnes of cheese (including 1,200 varieties!) each year. So I’ve included an easy recipe for making the most of one of my fave cheeses, and it’s perfect for game days!

Baked Camembert:


1 Camembert

A sprinkle of chilli flakes

1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed or diced

1 sprig of rosemary


  • Preheat your oven to 200/180 fan.

  • Remove the camembert from its packaging and place on a square of tinfoil.

  • Pierce the top of the cheese and fill in each hole with some rosemary, garlic and chilli.

  • Fold the foil over the cheese, gathering at the top and pinching together so that the foil isn’t touching the cheese.

  • Transfer to a tray and place in the centre of the preheated oven.

  • Bake for around 20 minutes, or until gooey and melted.

  • Serve with your favourite crackers or bread for dunking.


  • Similar soft cheeses could work too, such as brie.

  • Rosemary could be replaced with any herb you prefer, I find thyme also works well.

  • Use more or less chilli and garlic to suit your tastes- I love lots of garlic and a hint of chilli, but try your own take.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Share any cheesey recreations with me on social media!

Lots of love,

Little O x

#France #chd #coronaryheartdisease #hearthealth #epidemiology #cheese #cheeserecipe

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