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Here’s to a Healthy 2009

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{This was drafted this on New Year’s eve, and then I was counseled against posting it as it would not be positively viewed by certain folks} However, Sunday night, Sixty Minutes did another big piece on wine and health and the development of drugs based upon Resveratrol, so based upon that, it seems a worthwhile topic for discussion.

All of this comes with all of the usual warnings: Don’t drink too much, Don’t drink to get laid and if you are pregnant, don’t even think about it, if you are an alcoholic, get help.  

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The connection between wine and health has become a major topic. But in many countries, we in the wine biz are restricted from talking much about it. So, we sort of mince around the edges. These restrictions are largely forced through by the anti-alcohol lobby, but there is a bit of historical baggage as a result of alcohol laden tonics that were sold years ago for medicinal purposes, but didn’t do much other than get you a bit ‘happy’. In 1991 The French Paradox, started to reshape how people looked at wine. Now, armed with new technologies, universities, pharma and labs around the world have been delving into why wine is apparently so healthful. This was a big year for advances in these discoveries, so I thought it would be useful to review some of the new and established findings.

First, limited amounts of alcohol is known to be good for you, with the following effects: (here was my source)

A. It increases HDL (”good”) cholesterol.
B. It decreases LDL (”bad”) cholesterol.
C. It improves cholesterol (both HDL and LDL) particle size
Alcohol decreases thrombosis (blood clotting).  

A. It reduces platelet aggregation.
B. It reduces fibrinogen (a blood clotter).
C. It increases fibrinolysis (the process by which clots dissolve).
Alcohol acts through additional ways.  

A. It reduces coronary artery spasm in response to stress.
B. It increases coronary blood flow.
C. It reduces blood pressure.
D. It reduces blood insulin level.
E. It increases estrogen levels

 

But, none of the above is new. The new research has to do with the other compounds which originate in the skins and seeds of the grape. Resveratrol: This is a Phytoalexin, which is an antibiotic that is created in certain plants to fight off infection. It is apparently found in varying concentrations in both red and white wines. It is being formulated as a drug under the name SRT-1720, and what was new this year were a number of findings that this drug helps control insulin and somehow reverses the toll of overeating. It has been described as potentially helping people lose weight without dieting.There was also work done this year on Polyphenols, known as oligomeric procyanidins, these compounds are well known for their anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

There is new work such as this study which intends to quantify the impact these polyphenols may have on the effects of smoking. For me, I was shocked by some further findings this fall, on the effects of grape seed extract, another polyphenol intense compound, on a number of things: In June, there were reports that grape seed extract administered to mice could slow or prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Then today, it was reported  by The American Association for Cancer Research, that grape seed extract killed laboratory leukemia cells, a similar report can be found here.  

You could spend a full day reading the studies, and I suggest you do, as there is lots of good information online (avoid the sites selling diet supplements), but the net result is that the more scientists investigate, the more they are finding a rich variety of benefits from wine.It is worth mentioning that many of these compounds are available as supplements, and I do take some of them, but there is fairly consistent research that indicates that the absorption of these compounds is better as a food or in wine, then they are taken separately. I think this is especially true with resveratrol.

Cheers! for the new year and remember: Everything in moderation ;-)    

[PS- Also, this year a lot was reported about White wine being as good for you as Red, and I can assume that also goes for Rose (except for that sweet White Zin gunk, which I am sure will kill you, if you drink enough]

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