French and Physiology

Faculty Advisor

Hurlburt, Holly


The French Paradox is the theory that, despite consumption of classically-condoned fatty foods, the French remain in excellent health in comparison with citizens of other nations. This notion has been the subject of worldwide media fascination with publication of a plethora of journal articles and novels. A growing body of evidence supports a role for moderate consumption of wine in conferring health benefits. The role of wine in health may be especially prevalent in the French Riviera, a region whose regime is dominated by the French-Mediterranean Diet. I sought to determine the role of wine in the French Paradox by surveying residents of the French Riviera (n=102) on their wine-drinking habits and attitudes, and comparing these responses to those of surveyed residents of Greater London, UK (n=104), an area with a higher burden of obesity-related disease. Results reveal that residents of the French Riviera consume wine in smaller portions in comparison with Londoners (two-tailed t-test, t197 =5.79, P<0.0001, often for conviviality at special shared meals. Londoners, on the other hand, are more likely to consume wine in larger portions, more frequently alone and for relaxation purposes than their French counterparts. Identification and awareness of these differences provides a snapshot of these regions' distinct oenophilic profiles. Further research is needed to determine whether these French habits directly confer health benefits. However, this initial knowledge could encourage international adoption of these seemingly-healthy French wine-drinking tendencies, which could potentially play a role in reducing obesity and its global disease burden.


I am truly thankful to my advisor Dr. Holly Hurlburt, my French host family, my actual family, Jess Gold of the London-based Big Green Machine, Southern Illinois University, and Washington University, and all survey participants, without whom this wonderful experience would have been impossible.