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The Potential Health Benefits
of Red Wine Consumption

"A flood of scientific evidence is coming in
to support the health benefits of red wine consumption."

A mountain of scientific evidence is building up to support the contention that two glasses of red wine a day have beneficial health results. From the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, from preventing food poisining, dysentery and so-called "traveler's diarrhea" to reduction in human mortality rates, the benefits of red wine consumption are piling up. Indeed, more than 100 scientific reports have been published since 1991 providing strong evidence that moderate wine consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Possibly the most notable of these studies, if only because it was the focus of two separate CBS 60 Minutes segments, is the so-called "French Paradox." The French eat 30% more fat than Americans but suffer 40% fewer heart attacks. The evidence that the French consumption of red wine with their meals countermands the fattier diet seems compelling in light of subsequent research. The largest study, the Copenhagen City Heart Study, which monitored 13,000 men and women aged 30 to 70 between 1976 and 1988, found compelling evidence of the connection between moderate wine consumption and a sharp reduction in human mortality rates. This study found that daily wine consumers have literally half the risk of dying at any given age when compared to those who never drink wine.

Both alcohol and antioxidants found in red wine contribute to the results. Certain substances unique to wines, such as tannins and flavoniods, act as antioxidants and may be the key factors in the positive effects of red wine consumption. Some 400 substances in red wine apparently raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL, or "good" cholesterol) in the blood while decreasing the low-density lipoproteins (LDL, or "bad" cholesterol) and thereby help prevent heart attacks and strokes. HDL is known to lower the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease by clearing "bad" cholesterol from the arterial walls and helping eliminate it from the body.

Another study zeroed in on polyphenols such as catechin, quercetin, resveratrol and others which are found in red wine, but not white. The reason they are found in red wines but not white is that these substances are natural components of grape skins. Since red wines are fermented on the skins while white wines are not, it is the fermentation of the skins that seems critical to health promotion. This contention is supported by a study conducted by researchers from Portugal, Switzerland, Finland and Denmark. An extract from red-wine fermentation called ANOX (a trademark of IME, Switzerland) has been developed as a source of red-wine polyphenols. This extract has a significantly greater effect than either red wine or red wine powder on the inhibition of platelet aggregation in vitro and has several health promotion benefits.

The number of papers reporting results is impressive. Anyone interested in searching for them will find the task both challenging and rewarding. Below is a listing of some of articles -- both "popular" and scientific -- I found this morning on the internet. If the links don't work, I offer no apologies (and please don't write me saying they don't work). Over the years I've listed over a hundred links here, but the various websites involved would rather rotate their content than build archives for the public's long-term benefit, and so the items cited often disappear. This listing is not exhaustive. My search yielded over 1.6 million hits, so you can see I only captured a fraction of a fraction of a percentage point of what is out there.

Gastritis, Ulcer, Stomach Cancer -- Might Drinking be Protective? AIM Digest
Alcohol Consumption and the Risk of Cancer Nat Inst Alc Abuse & Alcoholism
Moderate Drinking Cuts Heart Attack Risk in Hypertensive Men HealthDay, 1/2/07
Compound in Red Wine May Be Key to Heart Health HealthDay, 11/29/06
Red Wine Compound Could Boost Endurance HealthDay, 11/16/06
Compound in Red Wine Boosts Health of Obese Mice HealthDay, 11/1/06
Red Wine May Cut Risk of Colorectal Cancer HealthDay, 10/23/06
Health Tip: Red Wine May Be Good for You HealthDay, 10/2/06
Red Wine May Help Prevent Alzheimer's HealthDay, 9/27/06
Daily Drinking Cuts Heart Disease Risk for Men HealthDay, 5/26/06
Disarming Cancer by Improving Lifestyle: Evidence in Europe from EPIC Study PSA Rising
Alcohol: Nutrition Source Harvard Sch Pub Health
Induction of Cancer Cell Apoptosis by Flavonoids Is Associated with Their Ability to Inhibit Fatty Acid Synthase Activity J Bio Chem
Resveratrol: Cutting-Edge Technology Available Today Life Extension
Resveratrol PDR Health
Resveratrol: Pulling the Big Red Lever Fight Aging
Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart? Mayo Clinic
Resveratrol Index Page Resveratrol News
The Provocative Promise of Resveratrol Wine Spectator
Forget Resveratrol, Tannins Key to Heart Health from Wine Scientific American
Resveratrol: That Was the Week That Was Lew Rockwell
Substance in Red Wine Could Extend Life, Study Says Super Centenarian
Chemical in Grapes Inhibits Flu Virus Cent Infec Dis Res & Policy
Therapeutic Potential of Resveratrol: the in vivo Evidence Nature
Red Wine Mist? Resveratrol Shows Potential Effects Against COPD, Asthma, Arthritis Science Daily
Resveratrol Nat Cancer Inst
Resveratrol, but not EGCG, in the Diet Suppresses DMBA-Induced Mammary Cancer in Rats J Carcinogenesis

Here is a listing of scientific papers on the subject culled from the PubMed database using a single search query. By altering the query, I could probably have pulled up scores, if not hundreds, of articles. But this gives you some idea of what is out there. Here, because these are from medical journals, as one might expect you will find risk factors mentioned as well as benefits. These articles are less hype and more pure science.

Cardiovascular Effects of Alcohol West J Med
How to Live a Long Time:* Facts, Factoids and Descants Transact Am Clin & Clim Assoc
Ought Low Alcohol Intake to be Promoted for Health Reasons? J Royal Soc Med
Commentary: Alcohol, the Heart, and Public Policy Am J Pub Health
Why Heart Disease Mortality is Low in France: the Time Lag Explanation Brit Med J
Antioxidants, Cholesterol, and Ischaemic Heart Disease: CHAOS or Confusion? J Clin Path
Effect of Resveratrol on Alcohol-Induced Mortality and Liver Lesions in Mice BMC Gastroenterology
Bioavailability and Biokinetics of Anthocyanins From Red Grape Juice and Red Wine J Biomed & Biotech
Anthocyanins and Human Health: An In Vitro Investigative Approach J Biomed & Biotech
Clinical Pathology of Alcohol J Clin Path
Selected Phenolic Compounds in Cultivated Plants: Ecologic Functions, Health Implications, and Modulation by Pesticides Envir Health Persp
Anthocyanins Protect Against A2E Photooxidation and Membrane Permeabilization in Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells Photochem Photobiol
Chocolate and Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease: A Systematic Review Nutri & Metabolism
Effect of Garlic on Cardiovascular Disorders: a Review Nutri J

The bottom line is that red wine, in moderation, is good for you, so start that fermentation and bottle some health for the future.

Last update was March 24th, 2007.

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