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french paradox, red wine, heart protector, heart disease, free radicals, antioxidants

The ”French Paradox

Resveratrol - Natural Anti-Aging Elixir
or the past 40 years, it has been virtually a dogma of Western medicine that a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol, and/or a high blood cholesterol level, is the primary cause of heart disease.

Atherosclerosis: Heart Disease Dogma

The high blood-cholesterol so typical of Western peoples is alleged to cause atherosclerotic plaques to develop over a lifetime, eventually plugging up heart arteries and leading to death by heart attack i.e. myocardial infarction (MI) or coronary thrombosis. The so-called fatty/cholesterol plaque that can block arteries is called atheroma; the gradual development of atheroma in heart arteries is referred to as coronary atherogenesis; and the chief culprit in the process of atherogenesis is alleged to be cholesterol/saturated fat. More recent refinements of the atherogenesis dogma implicate high LDL cholesterol and/or low HDLL cholesterol as the chief culprits in atherogenesis.

Thrombi vs. Atheroma
Yet there is a mass of evidence dating back 40 years that clearly points to atheroma/atherogenesis as being secondary phenomena in the 20th-century epidemic of heart-attacks. In a 1984 review article summing up the case against atheroma as the primary cause of infarction, Wayne Martin noted that Keely and Higginson in 1957 reported widespread atheroma among the Bantus of Africa, even though they seemed to be free from heart-attacks. The researchers suggested that thrombi (abnormal blood clots) rather than atheroma may be the major cause of MI. In 1959 Gore et al. found the same degree of atheroma in Japan and in the United States, despite widely different infarction rates.

They, like Keeley and Higginson, said that it was high time more concern should be given to the danger of thrombi, with less concern about atheroma. Strong et al. are continuing a study comparing men in New Orleans, USA, with men in Tokyo, Japan. The atheroma characteristics are very little different between the two groups; but in New Orleans the death rate from MI is very high, while among the Tokyo men it is much lower. In 1980 Sinclair noted that in Jamaica, where there is severe atheroma (caused presumably by coconut oil in the diet), atheroma does not seem to cause coronary thrombosis. He stated that thrombosis, and not atheroma, is the major causal factor of myocardial infarction.
There is now abundant evidence that although man worldwide is afflicted with atheroma, many populations in Africa and Asia seem to co-exist with atheroma without being afflicted with heart-attacks.

The French exhibit an astonishing 42% lower incidence of heart disease than Americans while consuming one of the highest fat diets on the planet

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The French Paradox
Grapes and wine contain a natural antidote to MI and cancer, scientists report. This discovery could help explain the so-called “French paradox’ - the lower rates of heart disease and cancer in nations such as France, Italy, Spain.

Platelet Aggregation and not Atheroma - main cause of MI
In a classic 1992 article about the French paradox for heart disease, Renaud and de Lorgeril present evidence that dietary fat and blood cholesterol are not primary MI villains, at least among the French. They note that the annual mortality rate per 100,000 population from coronary heart disease (CHD) is 78 in Toulouse, France, and 105 in Lille, France (for men), compared to 182 in Stanford, USA, 348 in Belfast, UK, and 380 in Glasgow, UK. Yet the saturated fat intake is about the same for these groups - 15% of the total calories. The mean serum cholesterol for men is notably lower in Stanford (209 mg%) than in France (230 in Toulouse, 252 in Lille), while Belfast (232) and Glasgow (244) levels are similar to France; yet all three have much higher MI mortality rates than France.

Renaud and de Lorgeril note that stepwise multivariate analysis shows that in the 17 countries that reported wine consumption, wine was the only foodstuff in addition to dairy fat that correlated significantly with mortality. Wine had a negative correlation, indicating a protective effect. They then present evidence that it is not through inhibitory effects on atherosclerotic lesions (atheroma) that wine provides MI protection, but rather through a decrease in the tendency of platelets to pathologically aggregate and plug up heart arteries. They compared farmers from Var, Southern France (low in CHD mortality), with farmers from south-west Scotland for platelet-aggregation tendencies. Platelet aggregation was strikingly lower in Var. Secondary aggregation to ADP, the test that undergoes the greatest decrease with alcohol, was 55% lower in Var than in Scotland, whereas mean levels of HDL cholesterol (allegedly MI-protective) were very similar (69 mg/dl in Girvan, Scotland, 66 mg/dl in Stranraer, Scotland, and 63 mg/dl in Var). Consumption of alcohol was greatest in Var (45g per day vs. 20g per day in Scotland), mostly in the form of wine.

Researcher David Goldberg rhetorically asked, “Does red wine contain a biological component that is present only in limited amounts in a typical diet?” Indeed it does: resveratrol. This trihydroxystilbene is synthesized by grapes, being present in the canes, leaves and the skin of the berries. Other than peanuts, no other human-consumed foodstuff contains significant amounts. The resveratrol story does not begin with its recent discovery in wine. It actually started in the early 1980s among Japanese scientific re-searchers. Reporting in 1982, Arichi et al. noted that the dried roots of Polygonum cuspidatum have been used in traditional Japanese and Chinese medicine in a product called Kojo-kon, used to treat a wide range of afflictions, including fungal diseases of the heart, liver, and blood vessels. Resveratrol and its glycoside, polycoside polydatin have been shown to be the primary active ingredients of Kojo-kon.

The World Health Organization indicates that Resveratrol, an organic compound found in red wine, is one of the active ingredients which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease in red wine drinkers by up to 40%. One of the highest concentrations of the Resveratrol molecule is found in the Muscadine grape. Muscadine wine has 10 - 12 times higher resveratrol concentration compared to French red wine
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Free radicals and Antioxidants
Antioxidants inhibit lipid oxidation by reducing general [hydroperoxide] tone. The polyphenolics including Resveratrol and Quercetin, commonly found in wine, are potent antioxidants. De Whalley et al. (1990) reported that flavonoids act by protecting (and perhaps regenerating) the primary antioxidant, tocopherol [Vitamin E], by direct antioxidant effects, and by scavenging free radicals. Frankel et al. in 1993 reported both Resveratrol and Quercetin to be more powerful antioxidants than Vitamin E in protecting human LDL against oxidation.

In 1994, Stavric wrote that it appears that a number of the biological effects of quercetin and other flavonoids may be explained by their antioxidant activity and the ability to scavenge free radicals. The antioxidative function of quercetin, found in red wine, was enhanced by ascorbate (vitamin C). And even more potent beneficial effects of quercetin, as a radical scavenger and/or as inhibiting lipid peroxidation were found in its combination with Vitamin E and Vitamin C.

Conclusions for blood
Thus, a combination of resveratrol (RSV), quercetin (QRC), vitamin E (E), vitamin C (C), and the trace mineral selenium (Se) may be expected to have a highly synergistic effect in reducing pathological platelet-aggregation (thrombogenesis), maximizing PGI2/minimizing TXA2 (thus dilating arteries for healthy blood flow, as well as opposing platelet aggregation) and minimizing free-radical damage/disruption to blood vessel lining (i.e. preventing/minimizing atherogenesis).

Resveratrol, red wine and cancer
There are three stages of cancer development. First stage - “trigger stage”. This is the early stage when cells starts an abnormal reproduction cycle. An immune system usually destroys these abnormal cells. Second stage - “promotion stage”, when your immune system is not able to destroy all cancerous cells, and they reproduce rapidly. Third stage - “growth stage”. In this stage the number of cancerous cells is huge, they expand rapidly while impairing the functioning of the body. Each of these stages can last for several years.

It was shown that resveratrol content in ordinary French red wines is approximately 5 parts per million, while in Muscadine wine from North Carolina it is ten times greater - up to 50 parts per million.

Anti-cancer evidence
These previously mentioned five compounds RSV, QRC, E, C and Se also have a similar beneficial effect in preventing cancer, or even aiding in its cure. In 1997 Jang et al. reported the results of a series of biochemical, cell culture, and animal studies with RSV in the prestigious journal Science. They reported that Resveratrol inhibits cellular events associated with all three stages of tumor development: initiation, promotion and progression. They also wrote that “...we studied tumorigenesis in the two-stage mouse skin cancer model in which a special chemical (DMBA) was used as initiator and another chemical (TPA) as promoter. During an 18-week study mice treated with DMBA-plus TPA developed an average of two tumors per mouse with 40% tumor incidence. Application of 1, 5, 10 or 25 [micromoles] of resveratrol together with TPA twice a week for 18 weeks reduced the number of skin tumors per mouse by 68, 81, 76 or 98% respectively, and the percentage of mice with tumors was lowered by 50, 63, 63 or 88%, respectively. No overt signs of resveratol-induced toxicity were observed.” They also note in their paper the importance and potency of RSV’s antioxidant and anti-mutagenic activity in preventing tumor initiation.

QRC has also shown potent anti-cancer activity. QRC has been shown to inhibit the growth of cells derived from human and animal cancers, such as leukemia and Ehrlich ascites tumors, the estrogen receptor-positive breast carcinoma (MCF-7), squamous cell carcinoma of head and neck origin, gastric cancer and colon cancer, as well as human leukemia HL-60 cell in culture. Vang et al. reported RSV to be active in normalizing HL-60 cells in culture back into normal cells. QRC has antiproliferative activity against breast and stomach cancer primary cultures. Several studies report that Vitamin E reduces tumor growth and exerts an anti-cancer effect in both the initiation and promotion stages because of its antioxidant and immuno-enha-ncing actions. Vitamin E appears more effective in conjunction with other nutrients (such as selenium and Vitamin C), than by itself in the prevention of tumor growth.

What alcoholic beverage to drink? More about alcohol

Note: Anyone who suffers from platelet deficiency or blood-clotting difficulties should use such a program only under medical supervision, if at all. Similarly, anyone taking medical blood-thinning drugs (e.g. aspirin) should use the program only under medical supervision, if at all. By James South MA