Alcohol And Healthy: Is Wine really Good For You?
last decade, there has been quite a shift in public
opinion on the health effects of alcohol.
Fuelled by media reports, most
people now believe that wine, when taken in
moderation, has health benefits.
medical profession has
recognised the healthful and nutritive properties of
wine for thousands of years.
recommended specific wines to purge fever, disinfect
and dress wounds, as a diuretic or nutritional
As part of
a normal diet, wine provides the body with energy,
aids digestion, and contains small amounts of
minerals and vitamins. It can also stimulate the
appetite. In addition, wine can restore nutritional
balance, relieve tension, sedate
and act as a mild euphoric
THE FRENCH PARADOX
'French Paradox' is the popular
thinking of wine as a medicine rather than toxin.
Typically, the diet of people in southern France
includes a very high proportion of cheese, butter,
eggs, organ meats, and other fatty and cholesterol
laden foods. This diet would seem to promote heart
disease, but the rate there is much lower than in
America. Thus, the French Paradox.
In essence, the 'French Paradox'
is the observation that although the French don't
eat a particularly healthy diet, they have a much
lower rate of heart disease than people of other
nations. This startling fact is said to be due to
the relatively high consumption by the French of
wine, which in some way acts to protect them from
heart disease. Of course, this is just a correlation
for which there is no direct proof. But it does fit
well with the results from large-scale population
studies on drinking and mortality.
There is still quite a bit of
controversy surrounding the French Paradox.
However, the idea is now so
firmly entrenched in the public's mind, and so
intuitively attractive a hypothesis, that it looks
likely to stay.
THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS
has a number of health benefits. Moderate
consumption of red wine on a regular basis may be a
preventative factor against coronary disease and
chemical components thought to be responsible for
this are catechins (or flavanoids). Catechins are
believed to function as antioxidants, preventing
free-radicals from doing cellular damage.
wine also have two compounds
called resveratrol and quercetin. Studies have shown
these to boost the immune system, block cancer
formation, and possibly protect against heart
disease and even prolong life.
published in the 2004 year-end edition of the
American Journal of Physiology
said that resveratrol
also inhibits formation of a protein that produces a
condition called cardia fibrosis, which reduces the
heart's pumping efficiency when it is needed most in
times of stress.
More evidence suggests that wine
dilates small blood vessels and helps prevent angina
and clotting. The alcohol in wine additionally helps
balance cholesterol levels.
In recent years, new evidence of
the beneficial effects of alcohol on other medical
conditions has emerged.
The antioxidant hypothesis is
immensely attractive and intuitive, and has received
much publicity. It explains the biochemistry of bad
molecules called free radicals.
These cause oxidative damage to low-density
lipoproteins (LDLs), making them more likely to
damage artery walls. It is this atherosclerotic
damage that increases the risk of heart attacks. Red
wine contains compounds called polyphenols, which
have antioxidant properties.
BLOOD LIPID FRACTIONS
to be the most likely mechanism
explaining alcohol's positive effect on
cardiovascular disease. There are two types of
cholesterol: LDL and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL is the lipid that, when oxidised, plays a role
in atherosclerosis, which leads to heart disease.
Alcohol itself, rather than any particular component
of it, has been shown to raise the levels of good
cholesterol (HDL). Exactly how alcohol has this
effect is not known.
in January 2003 in the
American Journal of
showed that moderate, regular
consumption of wine or beer decreases the risk of
peptic ulcers and may help rid the body of the
bacteria suspected of causing them.
The Harvard School of Public
Health conducted a 14-year trial called the Nurses
Health Study, which required participants to
complete a questionnaire every two years detailing
lifestyle choices and diagnoses of any medical
The subjects were divided into
three levels of alcohol consumption. The study found
that women who drank regularly and moderately (one
or two drinks per day, or a total of 15-30 gm of
alcohol) had a 58 percent lower likelihood of
studies point to
multiple benefits of regular and moderate wine
drinking, including lower risk of stroke, colorectal
tumors, skin and other cancers, senile dementia, and
even the common cold, as well as reduced scarring
from radiation therapy.
nutritional content of wine is minimal. There is no
fat, cholesterol or dietary
in wine. The official recommendation in the 1995
Dietary Guidelines for Americans (4th
edition), published by
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, is "Advice
for today: if you drink alcoholic beverages, do so
in moderation with meals, and when consumption does
not put you or others at risk."
is evidence that a regular,
moderate intake of alcohol can have health benefits.
On the other hand, wine is not a cure-all. The vast
majority of healthy people may enjoy wine regularly
and moderately as a pleasure that supports and
prolongs a gracious life.
findings are not a reason to
take up drinking if you currently abstain, but they
do represent a reason to cut back if you imbibe