French paradox now available in tablets

  • Thursday 7 June 2001

Those who wish to enjoy the health benefits of red wine without incurring any side effects from excess alcohol can now buy their favourite tipple in pill form.

A year-long trial conducted by the Société Française de Distilleries has shown that there is a market for the wine extract tablets, which contain polyphenols, a vital ingredient in preventing a range of ailments from heart disease to Alzheimer's disease.

The polyphenols contained in red wine are believed to account for the so-called French paradox, a term coined in the 1990s when researchers realised that the French, whose diet is high in saturated fats, actually had a lower incidence of cardiac disease than the rest of the Western world.

Some 20,000 producers from the Rhône and Roussillon areas of southern France have already expressed interest in providing powdered wine to the pharmaceutical industry – a canny business move in a region that is experiencing a sharp decline in wine sales.

'The idea is that the day when the commercial position of the vineyards becomes difficult,' explains David Ageron, a spokesperson for the Ardèche-based Société, 'this will provide a fall-back and make sure of a minimum price for the wines.'

Health professionals, however, warn that an absence of alcohol from one's diet does not necessarily pay a health dividend – moderate alcohol consumption, whether it comes from wines, spirits or beer, has been proven to prolong life.

Consultant dietician Lyndel Costain told decanter.com, 'The body absorbs polyphenols best when they are present in alcohol. It may well be that drinking alcohol with food is the real secret as it helps us to absorb the polyphenols in fruit and vegetables.'

'The French paradox may not be caused by red wine itself but by how it is drunk, with meals. Popping pills is no substitute for a healthy diet.'

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