Wine & Health
Wine is one of the oldest beverages known to man. Written records dating back 4,000 years refer to the dietary and therapeutic uses of wine. It has been used as a food, a medicine, as part of various religious ceremonies and as an important element in social life. Therefore, it is no surprise that many healthful effects of wine have become legendary.
In moderation, wine appears to be more than just a beverage containing alcohol. Research studies indicate that drinking alcohol moderately (two to three glasses of wine per day) can help lower cholesterol, decrease the risk of coronary heart disease and help us live longer.
You may have heard of the "French Paradox." The French eat 30% more fat than Americans but suffer 40% fewer heart attacks. Many believe that the consumption of wine is the reason, countermanding the fattier diet. According to the Wine Institute, the French drink over nine times more wine than Americans (19.05 gallons per person/per year as compared to 2.11 gallons in the U.S.). In fact, France has the world's second highest per capita intake of wine, but the second lowest rate of heart disease (next to the Japanese).
On Sunday, November 17, 1991, CBS 60 Minutes aired a report entitled "French Paradox." Correspondent Morley Safer interviewed Boston University's Dr. Curtis Ellison, a cardiologist and professor at the School of Public Health; Dr. Monique Astier-Dumas, a nutritionist from Paris; and the head of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, Dr. Serge Renaud. According to both Dr. Renaud and Dr. Ellison, a key factor attributing to the "French Paradox" was the French custom of drinking wine with meals. According to Dr. Renaud, a moderate intake of alcohol prevents coronary heart disease by as much as 50%.
On November 5, 1995, almost exactly four years after the original ground-breaking wine and health story, CBS 60 Minutes broadcast a 10-minute segment highlighting a Danish study with compelling evidence supporting the connection between moderate wine consumption and a sharp reduction in human mortality rates. The Danish study found that daily wine consumers have literally half the risk of dying compared to those who never drink wine. Safer called the Copenhagen City Heart Study, which monitored some 13,000 men and women aged 30 to 70 between 1976 and 1988, "perhaps the most significant study to date on the relationship between health and alcohol."
In addition, the segment included a number of positive statements on wine and health from scientists confirming that the amount of supporting data had dramatically increased. In a follow-up interview, Dr. Renaud stressed that antioxidants in addition to alcohol were likely to be responsible for wine's beneficial effects. The research of the Danish study suggests that, besides the alcohol, certain other substances and properties unique to wine, such as tannins and flavonoids, act as antioxidants and may be the key factors in the positive effects of wine. Some 400 substances in wine apparently raise the levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL - the "good" cholesterol) in the blood, while decreasing the low-density lipoproteins (LDL - the "bad" cholesterol) thus helping prevent heart attack and stroke. HDL is known to lower the risk of arteriosclerosis and heart disease because it clears cholesterol from the arterial walls and helps eliminate it from the body.
More than 100 scientific reports have been published since 1991 providing strong evidence for the wine, alcohol and health phenomenon. Today, the scientific evidence is even stronger that drinking wine is beneficial to our health. These findings clearly point out that moderate wine consumption can be part of a healthy lifestyle. Recently a lot of buzz has been generated by the revelations of the properties of resveratrol, another major antioxidant present in wine.
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