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Wine and Health

Most people appreciate wine for its delicious and complex taste. There are countless different types of wine, each pairing mouthwateringly well with certain combinations of food. This immense variety means, if you had enough money, you could live a lifetime without drinking the same wine twice. But how does wine affect your health?

A label approved by the BATF gives some indication that wine can be a healthful drink. In February 1999, the BATF allowed a label saying "The proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult your family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption."'

How does one drink wine healthfully? First off, wine, like any other item ingested, should be taken in moderation. Just like eating 8 pounds of chocolate a day is unhealthy, and 15 bags of potato chips for lunch will give bad results, so would drinking 8 bottles of wine a day. Wine, like anything else overdone, can harm your body in large quantities. The key is moderation.  

The French Paradox - Helping Fight Heart Disease

So, assuming a glass of wine with dinner every day, what benefits will this wine bring to your body? Current research by UCA-Davis has shown that the wine is reducing coronary heart disease incidence. This was known as the "French Paradox" for a while, because doctors couldn't figure out why cream-loving French weren't dying from heart attacks frequently. Wine, it turns out, was the answer.

What is wine doing? The wine is altering the blood lipid levels. It lowers the total cholesterol count by both raising the high density lipoprotein (HDL) levels while lowering LDL levels. In essence, it keeps the blood vessels clean. Wine has been shown to decrease the "stickiness" of platelets, so that blood is less likely to clump inside blood vessels. Studies find that the stickiness effect lasts around 2 days, which is why a glass a day is so helpful.

For those looking to maintain a healthy weight, wine helps lower glucose and insulin levels. Moderate drinking can reduce blood pressure as well.

Many of the health benefits are caused by the resveratrol naturally found in the wine grapes. In fact, a Copenhagen heart study followed 130,000 people for 10 years. Those patients who averaged 6 glasses of wine a week had death rates that were 30-40% lower than normal.

In general, researchers have found that those who drink 1-3 glasses a day regularly are healthier than those who drink none, and also than those who drink more.

Any alcohol, like any other food item, can be used properly, or can be used to excess. Some people are sensitive to the natural sulfites found in wine - sulfites are higher in whites than in reds. Others get migrane headaches from too many tannins, which are found mostly in red wines. While avoiding misuse, we should also rejoice in the many fine benefits that can be had by properly using wine as it was meant to be used - in moderation.  

Caloric Chart

5oz Wine: 100
5oz "Lite" wine: 80
12oz Wine Spritzer: 120
12oz Wine Cooler: 215

Wine Maintains Immune System

According to a study published in 1999 by the University of Florida, red wine does not supress the immune system like other alcoholic beverages.

Red wine is well known for its health benefits - from helping fight heart disease and cancer, to warding off Alzheimer's and extending life in general. There had been some concern in the past, though, that as an alcoholic beverage it might share in some of the immune-system suppression that tends to come with the alcohol

Susan Percival, a nutrition and immunity specialist, performed a two month study on mice to examine what immune system reactions red wine caused on mammals. Her team examined mice of various drinking levels - non-drinkers, red wine drinkers, and heavy alcohol drinkers. They found that those who drank the red wine had a normal level of immunity, the same as that of the non-drinking mice.

Ms. Percival explained that the level of red wine consumption for the mice would equal that of a human drinking two or three glasses a night.

The research group wishes to do further studies, to determine what substance in red wine helps differentiate it from the other alcohols. The group also plans on performing studies on humans to see if the findings hold up with adult drinkers.

Wine Helps Prevent Strokes

 The New England Journal of Medicine reported in Volume 341, Number 21 that drinking a glass of wine from once a day to once a week can reduce the risk of having a stroke.

The study followed 22,071 male physicians, 40 to 84 years old, who drank from no alcohol to three drinks a day. This was the largest alcohol - stroke study done to date, and found that the moderate drinkers lowered their risk of ischemic stroke by around 20 percent. An Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. The alcohol had no effect on the more rare form of stroke, hemorrhagic, where there is sudden bleeding in the brain.

The researchers assume that the same benefits would be conferred on women as well, since the alcohol is in essence "clearing out the arteries", something that would happen for both sexes. The alcohol itself breaks up blood clots, while the wine also increases the amount of HDL ("good" cholesterol) in the bloodstream.

This is not the first study to show how alcohol helps prevent strokes. The Northern Manhattan Stroke Study found the same protection occurred against ischemic stroke among whites, blacks, and Hispanics.

Giving a toast to your health is now more literal than ever!

Wine Drinking Leads to a Longer Life

In 2003, The Harvard Medical School published information on the Nature website that indicates drinking red wine can help extend your life. The effect seems very similar to the known effect of lessening the intake of calories. The fewer calories you eat, the longer you tend to live. The researchers believe a key component of wine - resveratrol - is responsible for this health gain.

Resveratrol in wine has already been shown in studies to help combat heart disease and cancer. Researchers feel it is this same effect that helps prolong life in general.

The group is planning more studies to further explore how red wine works to help bring a longer life, and what rates of consumption are most optimal.

The researchers note that resveratrol seems to be produced in greater quantities when the grape vine is under stress, perhaps as a way of the plant helping itself to overcome current difficulties. This means that grapevines grown in regions where the vine has to struggle - such as in Chile, Argentina and Spain - container higher quantities of resveratrol than more gentle climates

Wine and Cancer

Recent studies show that wine helps fight cancer. Wine contains resveratrol which helps suppress cancer. Resveratrol is an antioxidant. The red grapes that go into red wine also have bioflavonoids, which are antioxidants and help prevent cancer to begin with.

Equally important is wine's role as a reducer of stress. Many studies have shown that a relaxed and positive attitude help greatly in the healing process. Wine is also shown to help cancer patients by relaxing them and helping them fight their disease.

The American Cancer Society did a study of 500,000 patients. They found that those who drank 1-2 glasses of wine each day had a 20% less chance of death.

Wine as a Soothing Drink

Wine is a calming influence, and for thousands of years wine has been used as a relaxant. Science has discovered just how potent the power of being relaxed and calm can be in both daily stress-release and in fighting illness. Many aches and pains that were once thought to be injury-caused are now found to be stress related. Relieving stress is considered a major issue for a large portion of our population.

If each dinner is accompanied by a glass of wine, this helps the body relax and unwind. It helps to assist the mental transition between work and relaxation.

Many studies have found that patients grappling with illnesses can combat them better when calm and focused. Wine helps to make this possible.

We are not doctors ... for detailed answers about how wine will affect you personally given your medical condition and lifestyle, contact your family physician


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