The man behind the so-called ‘French paradox’ has received France’s highest distinction, the Legion d’Honneur.

The controversial scientist, Professor Serge Renaud, was named Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur on 14 July, the French national day.

Prof. Renaud was one of the first nutritional scientists to report the apparently inexplicable paradox whereby the French, who consumed very high levels of saturated fat – often linked to heart problems – in their food were less likely to suffer from heart disease than most countries in the western world.

Although he did not invent the term ‘French paradox’ when the idea surfaced in the early 90s, he is widely regarded as the father of the concept.

He later explained that wine, consumed regularly and in moderation, played a significant role in reducing the risk of thrombosis (blood clots). Its alcohol and antioxidants apparently provide protection from heart disease and reduce the impact of a fatty diet.

Although some in the medical profession regard Renaud’s theories as hunches at best, his studies on Cretan food and lifestyle in the Mediterranean further advanced his ideas.

Ironically enough, the French ministry for health, bête noire of the wine-producing community in France for its current anti-alcohol stance, was responsible for Renaud’s nomination.

Written by Oliver Styles