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Renaud: Farewell to Father of French Paradox

Posted: Wednesday, 31 October 2012 11:16

Renaud: Farewell to Father of French Paradox

October 31: Serge Renaud who was often referred to as the Father of French Paradox after a famous TV show was aired on CBS in 1991 where he asserted that moderate wine consumption explained the better cardiovascular health of the French than the Americans, passed away Sunday on 28 October at the age of 85. Subhash Arora bids farewell to the scientist he met on two occasions in Napa Valley and interviewed him extensively

Pic- Subhash Arora

Informing delWine of the sad news, Dr. Tedd Goldfinger, Chairman of International Wine & Heart Health Summits and President of Desert Heart Foundation, Arizona said ‘Serge will be most remembered as the father of the French Paradox, and a champion of health through nutrition with his many seminal contributions in the field of Omega-3/Omega-6 fatty acid metabolism and health, and the Mediterranean Diet.’

(Photo on the left shows Prof. Renaud with Dr Goldfinger on the right, at one of the International Wine and Heart Health Summits)

‘A moderate and regular wine consumption of one to three drinks per day, which is common in France, protects us,’ he used to say adding, ‘Polyphenols-anthocyanins and tannins contained in the wine in the skin and seeds of grapes, have antioxidant properties. This thins the blood and prevents the arteries from clogging. Red wine is particularly affected by this phenomenon.’

Serge died standing, according to the translation from a French report. ‘He wanted to get up from his chair and walk on the beach, 200 meters from his home. After a few steps, he suddenly collapsed and that was the end,' reportedly says Dominique Lanzmann, researcher and a long-time colleague who used to go regularly from Paris to the small resort of Carcans-Maubuisson, on the Médoc coast, where Professor Renaud spent his retirement.

Prof. Renaud was the son of a winemaker and born in Cartelègue in Haute Gironde in Bordeaux. He was the first to demonstrate scientifically and explain to the media that regular and moderate wine consumption was good for health. It was considered a revolutionary idea at that time.

Serge Renaud was a patriarch of the International Wine & Heart Health Summit where I had met him at two conferences organised in Napa Valley. Thanks to the efforts of Dr. Goldfinger, a society was formed to honour him and named after him as the Renaud Society . ‘Serge was greatly proud of the Renaud Society, a society of medical professionals with an interest in health and a passion for wine. He referred to the society very often in his personal and professional circles. He is the patriarch of our society, and will always be so honored and remembered, ‘says Dr. Goldfinger.

Landing in Montreal in the 1950s to study, Serge Renaud conducted studies on wine and health for twenty-five years to study  the complex relationships between nutrition and cardiology. Benefits provided by the wine but not other alcohols, gradually prevailed in his work at the University. He returned to Lyon as Director of research at INSERM.

He caused a sensation when he appeared on the TV channel CBS in 1991 in ’60 Minutes’. Wine consumption could explain the better cardiovascular health of French compared to the Americans. Wine, confined so far to the topic of alcoholism and other health headaches, was also beneficial for health, he said. "Consumed in moderate doses, it is one of the best medicines. It also has protective properties against some cancers, and investigations are open on degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.” The revelation inspired scientists and doctors to conduct hundreds of studies which have generally endorsed his claim. He was awarded Légion d'honneur for his work by the French government.

However, he was bitter about the French government and its policies related to wine. "In our country, for the world of health, wine, is alcohol and abuse", this researcher from Gironde reportedly used to say. A workaholic even after retirement, Renaud spent much of his time seeking funding to continue his research but was not always successful, particularly in France.

Following the TV report in 1991, wine consumption- especially the red, exploded in the US and Asia, and French Paradox is now even used as a marketing tool by wine producers. More than twenty years later Chinese still prefer red wine because of the health benefits that were proclaimed in this programme. India is no different. About 60% of wine consumption in India is red, even though it is generally a warmer climate country and the novices still drink it at room temperature (even up to 25-30° C) when they ought to be drinking at 16-18° C.

Serge Renaud was highly appreciative of the caliber of scientists in India. In fact, he had written several papers in collaboration with Indian researchers. He had confided in me that he would love to come and visit India one day. In his honour, I had organised a seminar titled ‘After the French Paradox’ at the French Embassy in Delhi, inviting doctors. This was a huge success.
May Serge’s soul rest in peace and I hope his friend Dominique Lanzmann would keep a bottle of red wine next to him in the casket.

Subhash Arora

For earlier article click here

For related article, please visit: Wine & Heart Health Summit to Open on Feb. 14 at Napa


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