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The French Aren’t Fat Because They Are Dead

It turns out there is a scientific explanation for one of the great mysteries that perplex Americans everywhere: how the French can eat all that great food without getting fat.

The answer, we learn from the NYT, isn’t the Mediterranean diet, the miraculous qualities of red wine or the healing effects of goose fat.  It’s drugs, to wit the drug Mediator.  This is a drug related to fen-phen and produced by fen-phen’s maker, that was prescribed to 300,000 people in France by the time authorities got around to taking it off the market.

There was only one teeny weeny little problem: the drug can lead to extensive heart damage and death.  For years the French drug regulators turned a blind eye to this sad fact; for years the French died prematurely — but at least they died thin.

The killjoys and the nanny state health police have now taken Mediator off the market; presumably the French will now look more like Americans — older and fatter with every passing year.


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  • Jbird

    So I google mediator because who doesn’t want an easy way to stay slim, and according to the French it’s been linked to 500 deaths (estimates of 1,500 more are conjectured). . . spread over 5 million patients and 40 years . . . In contrast 16,500 Americans die every year from over the counter pain meds like aspirin. . . I kinda like those odds on Mediator. Wonder where I can get some.

  • Kris

    “older and fatter with every passing year.”

    May you grow to be morbidly obese.

  • WigWag

    I have a sneaking supicion that “Mediator” isn’t too relevant to anything. Life expectency (from birth) in France is 80.7 years. For men it’s 77.1 years and for women it’s 84.1 years. Overall France has the 10th longest life expectency in the world (for women it has the 4th longest lifespan in the world).

    By contrast, the United States is 36th on the longevity list behind such nations as Costa Rica, Ireland, Cyprus, Malta, Greece, Italy and Spain. U.S. lifespan is 78.3 years (tied with Cuba).

    For the full list, follow this link,

    I don’t know if the Mediterranean diet has anything to do with it, but many countries which adhere to some form of the Mediterranean diet have significantly longer lifespans than the United States does. Included on the list are: Israel, Spain, France, Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus.

    “Mediator” doesn’t matter. What might matter is America’s horrible health care system.

  • Jbird

    Wigwag: life expectancy stats are skewed by the differences between countries in defining “live births”. for instance:

    Japan tends to count as stillborn babies who die within the 1st 24 hours after birth

    France does not count babies born before 22 weeks or under 1.1 lbs and subsequently die as being a live birth.

  • Walter Sobchak

    The French are thin because they smoke like chimneys.

  • David Taylor, MD

    Jbird’s good point can be extended slightly. Figures for the average lifespan in the U.S. are lowered by our relatively high infant mortality rates. When we look at the number of years lived by people who attain puberty, the U.S. is not quite so bad as other countries.

    Still, the notion that we only look modestly better when our tragic neonatal and infant mortality rates are factored out is not exactly a powerful endorsement of the overall health of our society. The fact that those high rates are found almost exclusively in poor and disadvantaged populations of the U.S. seems to make them easier to ignore, but recent statistics suggesting that an increasing percentage of U.S. households are at the low-income level or below may be a warning about the health consequences of poverty. I see many patients who wait until their disease has progressed to a serious, sometimes life-threatening point, because they did not feel that they had the resources to access medical care at an early stage. The essay in The New Yorker by comic writer David Sedaris about his experience in a French emergency room is a nice illustration of one aspect of this issue, happily set in the same country that Prof. Mead is highlighting here.

  • David

    Let’s not forget that Micky D’s has taken over France as well.

  • Ann

    I stayed in France for two months and ate and drank more than I do at home and I lost 15 lbs (which I quickly found back home). The french walk everywhere. I had to walk up 100 steps to get home every night and so many buildings don’t have elevators that you run up and down stairs more than we do here. All things considered, I’d rather eat what I want and walk and climb stairs than restrict my diet and not have the energy to exercise. Also, they eat very small breakfasts, huge lunches, and moderate to big dinners. Oh, I was addicted to macaroons and french ice cream, so I was packing on the carbs!

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