The lower than average rate of cardiovascular disease and cancer among Asian people despite a higher than average rate of cigarette smoking.
You've heard of the French paradox — red wine apparently helps keep the arteries clear despite all those cream sauces and buttery croissants. But how about the Asian paradox?
The term was coined in 2006 by Yale researchers to explain the low rates of heart disease and cancer in countries with high rates of cigarette smoking. One theory: The average 1.2 liters of green tea consumed daily by many people in Asia offers antioxidant protection.
—Gigi Lehman, The Supermarket Sleuth: Green tea, The Miami Herald, June 17, 2008
"The main evidence suggesting that green tea (and tea in general) is beneficial to human health has generally been studies relating to the 'Asian paradox'—specifically that Asians exhibit behavior (e.g.,smoking) that has been associated with heart disease and cancer for a long time in North America, yet their rates of these diseases are much lower," Sean Eddy, PhD, a research associate in biochemistry at Boston University School of Medicine, tells Life Extension. "Green tea consumption, with its high levels of antioxidant flavonoids such as EGCG, has been noted as one of the potential reasons for this. Green tea works on multiple levels from protection and prevention to treatment, blocking inflammation and cancer."
—Julius Goepp, New research on the health benefits of green tea, Life Extension, April 1, 2008
We do not yet have a full explanation for the 'Asian paradox,' which refers to the very low incidence of both heart disease and cancer in Asia, even though consumption of cigarettes is greater than in most other countries, but we now have some theories.
—Bauer E. Sumpio et al., "Green Tea, the 'Asian paradox,' and Cardiovascular Disease," Journal of the American College of Surgeons, May 1, 2006
The phrase Asian paradox has been around in various forms for quite a while. The earliest example I know of comes from an article titled "Korea: Asian Paradox," which appeared in the Summer 1987 issue of Foreign Affairs. Most early references are political or economic, but a closely related medical term is South Asian paradox:
Coronary risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease (CAD) have become a major health problem in South Asians, despite low fat intake and low rates of obesity. It is a paradox that the increased risk of people of Indian origin to diabetes and CAD is not explained by conventional risk factors.
—R.B. Singh et al., "Coronary artery disease and Coronary risk factors: The South Asian paradox," Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, March 1, 2001