Red Wine and Health

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Is wine really good for our health?

Yes, most particularly red wine. But this will, of course, depend on other considerations and factors. We do not recommend any alcoholic beverages to pregnant women, persons who are alcoholics or have history of addiction, those with liver, gastrointestinal or other diseases where alcohol is contraindicated, those who are allergic to it, poorly controlled diabetics, etc. Persons with a health problem should first consult with their physicians before ingesting alcoholic beverages.

Why is red wine better?

Red wine has been singled out as cardio-protective (good for the heart) because its skin contains phytochemicals, such as resveratrol, that help protect the pant’s self-defense system and proanthocyanidins (OPC) and cathechins, which are also powerful antioxidants. And these same substances have been found good for humans. Studies at the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University have confirmed the beneficial effect of these potent antioxidants that aid in preventing cancer and heart coronary heart disease. Also, the alcohol in it has some sedative and euphoric effects when wine is taken in moderation, and these are healthy for the psyche, especially in these stressful times.

Are all red wine the same?

No, not all red wines are alike or equal as far as the amount of resveratrol they contain. Research on seventy red wines from New York rated the Pinot Noirs (Pino Nwahs) to contain the highest amount of this phytochemical, with an average content of 13.6 micromoles per liter, about twice found in Cabernet Sauvignon (Cabernay Sow vin yong), Merlot (Merlo), and Cabernet Franc. The specific wines and vintages with very high level were the ’97 Pinot Noir from Benton-Lane Winery in Oregon and the ’98 Noble Muscadine from Dennis Vineyards in North Carolina. Large commercial wineries manipulate their wines more and reduce the resveratrol and other antioxidants as a result; small wineries utilizing the old European technique produce wines with higher resveratrol.

Why the difference in resveratrol contents?

After analyzing several hundreds of wines in his laboratory at Cornell, Professor Emeritus Le Creasy found that “wine produced in dry climates, like California central valley had lower resveratrol level than from the same variety of grapes grown in humid climates like New York.”

How about white wine?

Resveratrol is found in grape skins and OPC & C in the grape seeds. In red wine, the skins and seeds are included in the fermentation for at least 2 to 3 weeks, while white wine is made from juice that is pressed from the grapes, where the skins and seeds are not included in the fermentation, This explains why only red wine has a significant level of resveratrol, OPC & C.

Are the more expensive red wines better?

No, not necessarily. A Pinot Noir imported from France, which is much more expensive, is not a better “health drink” than a Pinot Noir from New York. An older vintage variety, which, again, is more pricey, might taste better in most cases, especially for connoisseurs, but not necessarily superior in its antioxidant value. Most wine-drinking families drink regular red table wine, but the choice is so personal and according to one’s taste. Mine is Pinot Noir when available, Cabernet Sauvignon, second, and Merlot, third.

Is red wine also good against degenerative diseases

Yes, according to Professor Susan Ebeler of the UC-Davis, “there’s increasing evidence that red wine contains components which may impart important health-protective effects against a number of degenerative diseases.”

At what age should one start drinking red wine?

In Italy and France, preteens are already allowed to imbibe “a little” wine with dinner. I am not advocating the same for us because our laws have set a legal drinking age, but I am not sure that this European practice is unhealthy at all. As a matter of fact, available medical evidence suggests that drinking a glass or two (not more than 3) red wine is a lot healthier than drinking a couple cans of beers or a shot or two of hard liquor. Medically speaking, allowing our children to smoke cigarettes, not exercise, or eat red meat, eggs and other high cholesterol foods day in and day out is certainly and definitely more unhealthy and dangerous than allowing them to drink a little red wine with dinner in a disciplined manner.

How much is “not too much”?

The generally recommended “healthy medical dose” for adult is between one and two (at most 3) wine glasses of red wine with dinner. I qualified the type of the glasses because drinking more (improperly using larger or taller glasses) is not necessary to achieve the health benefit from red wine. Wine has to be enjoyed, not endured. So take it as a fun drink and not as a “prescription medicine.”

How about beer and hard liquor?

Beer and hard liquor do not impart the same health benefit as red wine does. They are social drinks that people over the centuries have developed a taste for, basically imbibed at parties. If a person drinks alone regularly, or has to drink to be sociable, then there is something wrong. While ingestion of alcohol at a gathering makes most people less inhibited, a little “euphoric” and friendlier (and thus appear to be more sociable), one should not feel he/she needs a drink to be sociable. Using alcohol as a crutch is not healthy.

What is the drug action of alcohol?

Ethanol (Ethyl Alcohol) is the potable form of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, unlike methanol (Methyl “Wood” Alcohol), which is an industrial solvent, is poison when swallowed. Antiseptic rubbing alcohol is Isopropyl Alcohol, certainly not for drinking. The mode of action of ethanol is on the central nervous system. It is a sedative and a depressant, although a small amount (one to two drinks) might appear to act like a “stimulant.” The effect varies in each individual. The same amount could make one “the life and soul of the party,” make another sleepy, and bring out aggression and violence in others.

Does drinking improve sexual performance?

Ethanol may make one feel carefree, excited, and merrier, but it does not directly improve sexual prowess. In Macbeth, Act 2, scene 3, Shakespeare wrote alcohol “provokes the desire but takes away the performance.” After a glass or two of red wine, and a romantic situation and an appropriate ambiance Shakespeare might be wrong, but after 3 or more, he will most likely be right. Again, it depends on the personal tolerance of the persons involved.

How about Sioktong and Tanduay Rum?

am not aware of any studies on these drinks. In general, they will have the same basic effect of ethanol in general. How much resveratrol they contain, if any at all, I do not know.

What is the French Paradox?

While the Frenchmen eat a lot of “unhealthy” cholesterol-rich foods and many of them smoke, the incidence of heart attacks and the mortality rates from heart attacks among the French males, according to the popular 1970 studies, appeared much lower than those of Americans and Scandinavian men. The favorable results among the French were likewise found among Italians and the Swiss. The obvious difference in these five cultures and societies, said the researchers, was the habit of drinking red wine with the meals among the people of France, Italy and Switzerland. Perhaps, we should add our country to this list.

Any rule of thumb for healthy drinking?

Without being ficitious, the best drink consists of a glass of milk 3 times day, if you like and can tolerate milk, 3 glasses of your favorite fruit juices, and at least 2 glasses of filtered water a day, a total of at least 8 glasses of fluids. But where alcohol is concerned, red wine (Pinot Noir, when possible) is my recommendation, a glass or two with dinner (certainly not more than 3), without chasing it with beer or hard liquor! Just like anything in life and in health, moderation is the key, especially to what I will call “therapeutic drinking.” In the meantime, here’s---a votre sante!

©2003Raoul R. Diez, M.A.O.D.