The Poison is in the Dose

The French Paradox, the Healthy Drinker, and the Medicalization of Virtue

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In this paper I examine the role of wine within the “French Paradox” and the US media and government's response to that role. I recount the “discovery” of wine's ability to reduce the incidence of heart disease among a control group of French people, and how scientific research on wine proliferated as scientists attempted to reduce wine to its active ingredients. In this process, discourses of science and quantification create rational and ethical reasons to drink wine. In the process of quantification, wine is defined as a medicalized component of a healthy diet, and those who drink wine become medicalized patients. Knowing the line between “moderate” and “excessive” drinking becomes a mathematical calculation, and this calculation determines whether or not one is healthy. Such a move normalizes a scientific attitude toward public life by making the restrained, rational and numerate drinker into the “healthy” and ethical drinker.
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