Wine and Your Health

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It is said that as far back as 450 BCE, the Greek physician Hippocrates recommended wine to combat fever, disinfect wounds, and provide nutritional supplements.

In the intervening years, research has provided ample evidence of the truth in Hippocrates’ early observations. In fact, since the 1970s, many studies have concluded that moderate intake of red wine does indeed have salutary health effects, although the exact reasons are still debated.

Red wine consumption helps prevent coronary disease and possibly some forms of cancer due to a class of compounds known as catechins (flavanoids). Like resveratrol, which aids grapes in fighting fungal infections, they act as anti-oxidants and anti-coagulants. It has been found that anti-oxidants remove free radicals — ionized oxygen atoms in the blood that are known to cause cellular damage.

A recent study in the American Journal of Physiology indicates that resveratrol also inhibits the formation of a protein that reduces the heart’s pumping efficiency during stress.

Other studies suggest that red wine can raise HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ kind) and discourage LDL (the ‘bad’ kind) from forming.

Another benefit is that most of the pathogens that threaten humans are inhibited or killed by the acids and ethanol in wine. (This was probably why, prior to the mid-18th century, wine was safer to drink than water.)

Further, according to a American Journal of Gastroenterology study in 2003, moderate wine consumption decreases the risk of peptic ulcers, possibly by ridding the body of the bacteria which causes them.

Even diabetes occurrence may be reduced by moderate (one or two drinks per day) wine consumption, says a 14-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 100,000 women. The study concluded the particpants had a 58% lower likelihood of developing the disease. The exceptions were pre-menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer. This group should not consume any alcohol.

Of course, there are always risks and exceptions. Many wines contain sulfites, to which a small percentage of the population is sensitive. And wine, though absent fat and cholesterol, does contain sugars and small quantities of sodium and, of course, alcohol. It doesn’t take much to become too much.

Also, anyone with digestive tract disorders, liver disease, or kidney problems — along with a slew of other ailments — would not be doing themselves any favors by drinking wine.

Of course, we can’t forget the well-known effects of overindulgence — not only the familiar hangover, but even liver damage in the long run. And, pairing wine with drugs, even normally beneficial ones such as aspirin or acetaminophen, is a recipe for disaster.

These are just a few of the benefits and risks that go along with drinking wine. If you are really concerned about health issues, you need to do your own research. There are numerous studies that have been done and more are being carried out on a regular basis.

Probably the best advice, as in all areas of life, is to exercise moderation.

Now go have a glass of wine and contemplate what you have just read.

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