Here’s to Your Health

By Posted on Jul 30 2009 | By

TreadmillThe interest in a healthy lifestyle is everywhere present.

Pick up almost any newspaper or magazine, or log on to the web, and the issue of how health and life can be enhanced by choosing wisely is likely discussed. 

In the industrialized world, access to health education and the products that make life worth living are readily available. It also brings into sharp focus those countries that do not have the resources or leadership to properly care for their populations. The scenes of poor health, hunger and disease are distressing. We are a most fortunate nation.

Of course, having access to health information and failing to act on it is to potentially squander years of productive living. One must embrace change to achieve benefits. Often that’s not easy. Health discipline is seriously challenged when it comes face to face with a juicy cheeseburger, French fries and a double-dipped ice cream cone. Darn, why can’t have it all?

Well, perhaps we can. Let’s talk wine and health.

No need to extol the pleasures of the fermented grape for practicing wine lovers. If you are sipper, it’s stating the obvious to wax on the enjoyment of a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc on a warm summer evening. Or, the bold taste of a Malbec sipped before a cozy winter fire. Tasting is the only act of persuasion needed here.

But, for those who do not drink wine, there is a litany of reasons to take a closer look at what a glass with your evening meal can offer health-wise. Not to mention the social enjoyment that wine and food add to any gathering.

Here is a quick recap of some of the latest health studies published in the May 2009 issue of Wine Spectator on the benefits of moderate wine consumption. And let’s underscore moderate. The abuse of alcohol destroys health; it does not enhance it. So let’s say it just one more time.  Everything.   In.  Moderation.

Blood Pressure CuffHeart
Since 1991 and the 60 Minutes broadcast titled, The French Paradox, evidence has mounted that wine aids circulation and general heart health. Over two decades of research strongly suggests that wine, particularly red wine, can reduce the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart attacks by as much as 60 percent. A 2007 Harvard study found that men with hypertension could lower their risk of a heart attack by 30 percent by drinking a glass or two of wine daily. Red wine also reduces the bad cholesterol LDL, while simultaneously increasing beneficial HDL. It also combats the buildup of fatty deposits. Wine drinkers also tend to eat healthier diets, smoke less and exercise more—positive health habits with a host of life giving benefits.

Several studies show wine consumption may help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s due to the action of grape seed polyphenols that block the formation of plaque proteins in the brain that kill brain cells.

Five to ten glasses of wine a week can reduce rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50%. It also increases bone density in elderly women, possibly lowering the risk of osteoporosis.

PillsColds & Flu
A polyphenol found in wine called Quercetin—an anti-inflammatory—may block the ability of the influenza virus to grow itself and thus reduce the likelihood of colds.

Wine drinkers earn a lower the risk of developing the disease by 58% over that of non-drinkers.

Throat Cancer
The antioxidants in wine may reduce such cancers by offering protection from the onset of Barrett’s Esophagus—a precursor to esophageal cancer.

Women and Wine
Women should be cautious when considering alcohol in general since studies have shown an elevated cancer risk, especially breast cancer. But, one study revealed that a polyphenol in red wine suppresses the metabolism of estrogen, protecting cells from becoming cancerous. Boston Medical School studies have shown that women who do not binge drink, have adequate folate intake and are not on hormone-replacement treatment only exhibit an increased risk of breast cancer with consumption of more than seven ounces of wine a day. This is an important finding because moderate alcohol consumption lowers women’s risk of death from heart disease, stroke, hip fracture and dementia.

Studies have also shown one to two glasses of wine daily cuts the risk of ovarian cancer in half over non-drinkers.

California researches found that men who drink red wine have a lower risk of lung cancer than nondrinkers. Nonsmoking men who drank a glass or two a day were four percent less likely to develop lung cancer that nondrinkers. Even smokers had a reduced rate of the disease but still higher than nonsmokers.

In some people wine can cause headaches, more often with red than white. The sulfites in wine are often blamed for this effect but research does not support this theory. More likely, an amino acid call tyramine, found especially in reds, may be the culprit. Tyramine is an active substance that causes dilation and contraction of blood vessels. The substance is created when wine goes through a secondary fermentation called malolactic that softens a wine’s mouth feel and creates an overall richer taste. Tyramine can also trigger the release of adrenaline into the blood stream about three hours after ingestion. This could be the reason why some people who wake at night after drinking wine cannot get back to sleep. Wine lovers simply need to monitor their reaction to drinking and adjust their intake accordingly.

Israeli researches found that red wine helps the stomach remove potentially harmful substances found in red meats, aiding digestion and lowering the risk of arteriosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.

The enjoyment of wine has a history extending back over 7,000 years. As modern science delves more deeply into the health benefits of wine, it’s proving our ancestors prescient. The Romans, indeed, had it right—In vino veritas—In wine truth.

Wine GlassesBut, as the list of reasons why wine is good for us grows, perhaps we should update the saying to read: In vino veritas et sanitas—In wine truth & health.




Published on July 30,2009 in the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES