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For the past decade or so there has been an ongoing
debate about the health benefits of alcohol, particularly red wine.
Many wonder how such drinks could possibly be beneficial, as alcohol is
a toxin and its consumption has consistently been linked to, amongst others,
cardiovascular heart diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased
longevity. While these may in
fact occur with heavy usage, studies cite that moderate alcohol consumption
has been found to have potentially positive effects on the following ailments:
Cognition and Memory
Wine has been the focus of most recent studies and will be the primary focus of this website. According to the “French Paradox”, in which the French have poor diets but wonderful health, and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, wine concurrent with meals promotes favorable biochemical interactions which reduce the risk of various chronic diseases. http://www.wineinstitute.org/res_ed/wine_spec_rsch/mealtime_consumption.htm
In moderation, this beverage aids in:
Wine enhances the digestive process by increasing the flow of gastric
DISEASE- Red wine helps drive bad
cholesterol from the arteries, reducing the risk of
stroke and angina
Red wine’s polyphenols fight against viruses such as cold sores
In moderation, wine leads to lower incidences of disability and mental
Quercetin, found in red wines, is an anti-cancer agent activated as the
wine naturally ferments in the body
Wine enhances the body’s alkaline reserves, helping to combat kidney
VITAMINS AND MINERALS- Various wines are rich in potassium, calcium, iron, sodium, magnesium, and vitamins B and P.
The ranges of alcohol contents for beer, wine, and distilled spirits vary. Typically, a regular beer is roughly 4.5% alcohol. A glass of wine ranges from 11%-14%. Vodka, whisky, gin and the like, range from 40%-50% alcohol, often expressed in proofs of 80 or 100. With these various ranges kept in mind, it is often difficult to establish a worldwide standard for an alcoholic beverage. The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services developed a U.S. standard (Dufour, 1999). A drink, which contains approximately .5 fl oz, is equivalent to:
fl oz. beer
fl oz. wine
1.5 fl oz 80 proof
A female who has one of any of these drinks per day, and a male who has two per day is considered a MODERATE DRINKER.
Numerous studies have shown that moderate wine
consumption contributes to keeping the body healthy.
A two month study was performed by a nutrition and immunity specialist.
Using mice, she examined the immune system’s reaction to red wine.
Mice were given a portion of red wine, equivalent to two or three
glasses, heavy alcohol, or nothing. It
was found that mice who drank red wine had a normal level of immunity, the
same as those who drank no alcohol. http://wine.about.com/food/wine/library/weekly/aa080699.htm
Even in humans, wine’s effects are prevalent. Results
from a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men who
drank moderately, two to six drinks per week, were healthier on the overall as
compared to men who drank more than two drinks per day.
Their health was even better than that of non-drinkers. http://www.heartinfo.org/alcsum297.htm
every glass of wine that we drink, our body receives approximately 200
different phenolic compounds.
These phenols possess various beneficial effects.
These effects are due to the
presence of antioxidants ( resveratrol, catechin, and quercetin). Other
compounds such as flavanoids and tannins also contribute to better health.
Research of 16 red wines shows that when measured by electron spin resonance, phenol content is strongly correlated to antioxidant activity. This activity is associated with gallic acid, resveratrol, and catechin content (Burns et. al, 2000).
A 1996 study performed by UCDavis found that mice had higher concentrations of catechin after being fed wine, freeing their bodies of cancer tumors 40% longer than sibling mice who received no wine. The wine solid delayed tumor onset.
This antioxidant has been linked to the reduction of breast cancer.
Resveratrol has been shown to lower low density lipoproteins (LDL), our bad cholesterol. In addition, it has been found important in platelet aggregation, inhibiting platelet clumping in the blood, and thereby decreasing the risk of heart attacks (Waterhouse, 1995). Also, resveratrol contributes to the modulation of lipid metabolism (Fremont, 2000).
It’s common knowledge that wine is made from grapes. So, many of the health benefits which we gain from drinking wine stem from its fruity composition. Resveratrol is naturally present in grape skin, protecting the grapes from fungus. Thus, resveratrol’s estrogenic properties which benefit our cardiovascular health can be provided in grapes alone. http://www.sdearthtimes.com/et0198/et0198s10.html
This theory was tested by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After having 15 subjects drink Welch’s grape juice for two weeks, they found free flowing blood levels similar to those present when a person drinks wine. The risk of blood clots was significantly lowered and a person could avoid intoxication to gain this beneficial result (Jaret, 2000).
thing that we must realize is that white wines and red wines are processed
differently. The skin and seeds
in white wine production are separated immediately after crushing the grapes,
thus flavonoid levels are lower than those of the red wine.
Our heart is the key to
our health and wine is the key to our heart.
In more than 50 cross-sectional studies, drinking wine in moderation
has shown no correlation with high blood pressure.
Only heavy consumption leads to increased hypertension.
Blood flow is increased with the antioxidants of wine, lowering the occurrence of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in which the arteries clog and diminish circulation in the legs. This was demonstrated in a 1997 Harvard study in which men who were daily drinkers had lower incidence of PAD than those who drank only occasionally or not at all. Their risk was reduced by 32% (Camargo, 1997). In another study, red wine and dealcoholized red wine were analyzed for their endothelial function. Subjects drank 250ml of the wines and artery dilation was measured afterwards at various time intervals. It was found that drinking only the red wine with alcohol contributed to a significantly higher blood flow from the brachial artery. Thus the ethanol plays a large part in increasing circulation, a discovery which partly contradicts findings about grape juice stated above (Agewall, 2000).
The risk of stroke is
also lowered with moderate alcohol use. There
is a reduced likelihood of having an ischemic stroke, which is 5 times more
common than hemorrhagic stroke. As
cited by CNN, white or red wine reduced the occurrence of stroke by nearly a
third in a sample of 13,000. The
same was not true for beer or other liquors. http://www.cnn.com/HEALTH/9812/03/wine.stroke/
Even more encouraging is that those who abstain from alcohol were found to
have twice the risk of stroke than the moderate consumers. http://www.wineinstitute.org/res_ed/health_research/stroke.html
CORONARY ARTERY DISEASE
Alcohol also has a significant impact on Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease. The consumption curve is U shaped, with moderate drinkers at the lowest risk. Support for this is found in a Kaiser Permanente study which determined the association of CAD risk and drinks per day with various alcoholic beverages. Findings concluded that those patients who drank red wine, white wine, both wines, or other wine types, were significantly protected against Coronary Artery Disease (Klatsky, 1999).
Aside from helping our hearts, drinking wine can benefit various organs and alleviate ailments of our entire body.
Although alcohol can
lower blood sugar levels to the point of hypoglycemia, or raise glucose levels
due to the carbohydrates in certain drinks, the Joslin Diabetes Center states
that persons using insulin can include two alcoholic beverages in their
mealplan, while those without insulin can use alcohol for an extra fat or
Resveratrol has been found to inhibit NF-kappa B which protects both healthy and cancer cells. Thus, wine helps kill cancerous cells before multiplying. http://community.silverlink.net/winecabinet/h20-0821.htm
Low doses of polyphenols have been found to decrease cancer cell proliferation, minimizing breast cancer cell growth (Damianaki, 2000).
A 1996 study found that
wine, out of 21 beverages, was the most strongly associated with decreased
risk of kidney stones. It
decreased the likelihood of occurrence by 39%. http://www.wineinstitute.org/res_ed/wine_spec_rsch/wine_specific_benefits.htm
A recent study of 3,700
elderly people in the South of France found that moderate wine drinkers were
able to decrease the prevalence of Alzheimer’s by 75% as compared to those
who drank minimally. No cognitive
impairments were found as a result of the wine use. http://www.secretcellars.com/health.html
Resveratrol thwarts the
activation of cyclooxgenase-2 (COX-2), a gene found in the human mammary and
oral epithelial cells which creates the inflammation and pain of arthritis.
Luckily, when wine alleviates this pain, it can diminish the growth of
cancerous tumors and the emergence of Alzheimer’s as well.
They are both influenced by this same gene.
Wine research has shown that moderate consumption of wine helps increase longevity.
Copenhagen City Heart Study (1995)
The American Cancer
Society found that those who drink under 3 alcoholic beverages a day, every
day, are less likely to die during the given research period than those who
abstain or drink heavily. This is
due to positive effects such as lower bad cholesterol, increased good
cholesterol, and reduced clotting. http://www.wineinstitute.org/res_ed/health_research/longevity.html
Now that we have seen the benefits of wine, let us glance at the benefits of other alcoholic beverages. As stated earlier, moderation of any can be healthy. In a study performed in Denmark, the intake of various beverages were analyzed in relation to a person’s self reported subjective health. There were over 12,000 subjects in this study, providing a relatively large sample. Light to moderate wine drinkers were found to have higher perceived health when compared to those who drank beer and liquor (Gronbaek et. al, 1999).
When looking at the proteins and vitamins in these beverages however, beer is found to have more proteins and B vitamins than wine. In addition, beer has comparable antioxidant levels. These levels are, however, of different flavonoids, since barley and hops vary significantly from grapes (Denke, 2000).
Even whisky has advantageous effects. According to the Rowett Research Institute in the UK, healthy males who
drank 100ml of wine and 100ml of
whisky had similar and significant
increases in their plasma total phenol
content and antioxidant capacity. These
findings contribute to the belief that
phenolic-containing alcoholic beverages,
whether wine or not, decrease the risk
of coronary heart disease (Duthie, 1998).
It is, therefore,
difficult to claim one beverage healthier
than another, since
each has its own positive health effects.
As of February 6, 1999, the FDA placed the following label on bottles of wine:
proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult
family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption”
After reviewing the above
research claims, most doctors would undoubtedly support the notion that wine
and other alcoholic beverages do, in fact, have advantageous effects when used
in moderation! Further studies
should be performed in order to expand our knowledge of alcohol’s ability to
provide such benefits, as well as to help us discover additional illnesses
that the drinks may prevent.
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Lister, C., Matthews, D., Maclean, M.R., Lean, M.E., Duthie, G.G., and Crozier,
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