Is Wine Really Healthy?
During the past twenty years there has been a strong bias towards the major benefits of drinking red wine for longevity and health. Indeed, I have recently been one of those diehard believers in the accolades sung on behalf of consuming a glass of red wine regularly with meals.
So in this article I would like to look at the counter-argument, is red wine really the healthy elixir that the experts say it is? I would like to attempt to debunk the myth as people say but only where it is strongly based on scientific evidence. As someone with a Science (Chemistry) degree this is my only point of valid reference! Let’s explore!
Is Red Wine Good For You?
Admittedly people have always wanted excuses to drink alcohol regularly; this is just a common global trait. People throughout the world will look for all sorts of excuses to have an alcoholic drink! Indeed much of our networking and social fabric relies on the consumption of some alcohol.
Hold that thought for a minute! So where did this notion of red wine especially being not only okay but good for you come from?
Well it actually comes from anecdotal evidence, possibly rather thinly veiled as scientific evidence that the Mediterranean diet results in good health and longevity.
The so called evidence comes for scientific experiments on the diet of French people in the early nineteen-eighties. As for any experiment, even scientific ones there were some controls but the conclusions were in hindsight perhaps made rather simplistically.
Despite the French having a relatively regular consumption of red wine and saturated fats and dairy, they exhibited longevity and good cardiovascular health. This contradiction was termed the “French Paradox” (Renaud and De Lorgeril, 1992 based on 1980’s studies).
This was the term given the results since when a population consumes high levels of fats it usually correlates to high cardiovascular disease and high mortality (death) rates. Both France and other Southern European countries did not exhibit this. So it was thought that consumption of red wine with the fats actually reduced the risk of the fats being harmful.
Quite simply this was thought to be due to the red coloured polyphenols which are found in the grape skins of red wine grapes. These are more favorable when it comes to preventing the platelet formation. The polyphenols actually reduce the formation of clots.
These clots are what lead to heart disease and heart attacks. So it appeared that French and Southern European populations reduced the damage potentially caused by their high fat intake by drinking red wine at meal times.
In a later MONICA PROJECT (conducted on French people living in the Toulouse region of France, the population were found to eat high levels of fruit and vegetables, also now known to protect people from heart disease, pre-cursor diabetes, strokes and cancer.
Perhaps it was indeed a high level of fruit and vegetables including grapes which led to such low levels of bad cholesterol and such healthy longevity in the original French Paradox experiment?
Maybe too if we delve further we might begin to understand what it is about red coloured fruits (grapes and plums and pomegranates) that might explain the health benefits of red wine.
Benefits of Red Colored Fruits
Red grape skins contain a highly protective (anti-bacterial) compound called Resveratrol. It is this that is found in all red fruits and especially red grapes used for red wines. This may hold the answer to the proven astounding scientific results of lowered cancer rates, lower heart disease, and lower levels of gallstones.
It appears this super compound Resveratrol protects the red grape from bacteria during the grapes maturation. It also acts as a natural medical drug fighting off any cell mutation or formation of plaque.
Resveratrol has been demonstrated in the laboratory by studies done by Sacanella et al (2007) since the famous French Paradox experiments.
The Resveratrol originally found in the red grape skin maybe not so much the alcoholic version of red grape. It is interesting to note that in all experiments at the time of the French Paradox, consumers of beer, white wine and spirits did not exhibit the same low rates of cardiovascular disease or overall long longevity.
While ongoing research has often continued to praise the wonder drug properties of Resveratrol rather than red wines only, more recent studies in the past year or so have attempted to debunk the myth of red wine’s benefits.
Benefits of Red Wine – A Myth?
John Hopkins University (Baltimore, USA) 2014 report they did not find the super Resveratrol beneficial findings of previous studies. However they failed to offer an alternative hypotheses only vaguely saying that this was what they didn’t find. There was no reference to actual scientific results which is required to question the scientific validity of any theory before it is dismissed.
So instead of myths about myths let us look at some concrete evidence pointing to the lack of solid proof that red wine is especially good for you.
A new study by a Sydney based, UNSW (University of NSW) Chemistry Researcher, Lindsay Wu, stated that major benefits of Resveratrol were only experienced when drinking large quantities of red wine, not just a glass with a meal each day.
A local wine seller in the same article, while not scientific may have hit on part of the answer. Giorgio De Maria stated that in Italy wine drinking was a daily pastime. He attributed its common usage to its digestive and relaxation effects.
So could it be that the drinking of any alcohol not just red wine improves our digestion? This in turn means that we more efficiently break down fatty content and dairy products than if we had no alcohol. This is a very plausible explanation of why any alcohol with meals (in moderation) can be healthy.
Certainly other studies have markedly shown that people who drink moderately are generally healthier than those that do not drink at all (non-drinkers). This correlation has been shown time and time again in multiple studies.
In Spain, a considerably large sample of male and female participants (55-80 years of age, often a group susceptible to depression), drank red wine for seven years. It was found that low to moderate red wine consumption actually reduced the incidence of depression. This was attributed to the brain protective properties of the Polyphenols such as Resveratrol but also including other powerful antioxidants.
Additional benefits for who suffer from diabetes include the stabilizing and lowering of blood sugar levels. Again is that due to a unique compound within red wine, since the same benefits are not experienced with white wine or spirits. (Indeed for many people who suffer depression spirits worsen their depression in a major way!)?
For studies relating to the lowering of blood sugar in diabetes 2 patients, refer to a study in India. Here a sample of 62 people with diabetes 2 was given a Resveratrol tablet (in place of red wine). All participants experienced not only a reduction in blood sugar levels but also in their cholesterol levels. Since diabetes 2 health depends on the triage of sugar, cholesterol and salt one would conclude that a glass of red wine is helping to manage their overall diabetes condition.
Even more scientifically reported benefits are of better brain activity (less dementia) in the over fifties age group, reduced infection (possibly due to the antioxidants high in red foods), and killing off bacteria in bad food when ingested with red wine. This might be due to Resveratrol and other polyphenols being high in anti-bacterial properties. Thus red wine can actually eliminate or reduce food poisoning effects.
Concluding, it appears that we cannot totally debunk the myth of red wine as an alcohol being beneficial to our health. Nor can we definitively say that someone who eats a lot of red coloured fruit (containing Resveratrol) is not going to be healthier all round and less likely to get diseases.
This is due to studies by Lindsay Wu that high levels of Resveratrol, (found in patients who consume high levels of fruit) patients could obtain the benefits of high levels of Resveratrol, thus affirming the positive correlation with the super compound.
Perhaps though, we cannot say as affirmatively that the French Paradox experiment proved without a doubt that only red wine was beneficial to health. In other words any alcoholic beverage is beneficial to digestion and processing of fats. This in turn efficiently eliminates toxic waste and prevents the oxidation of fats into harmful platelets, which in turn lead to heart disease and high mortality rates.
All of this shows that to really take a theory seriously we have to rely on scientific evidence only, not hearsay or populist health daily newspaper articles, so often written by non-scientific journalists without any scientific qualifications, chasing the latest “fads” and trends.
My advice after having researched the topic a lot is low daily or almost daily alcohol consumption, and I mean a glass with an evening meal can do you no harm.
More than likely, a small glass of red will actually help you digest your meal and fight off any bad bacteria that might be lurking in your meal! If you have diabetes 2 I can positively say it does balance your blood sugar levels and it does in low quantities give you a sense of well-being.
I personally love nothing more than a glass of red wine to pique my taste buds and appetite before a meal, but then I grew up in Europe where we drank wine maturely under adult supervision from our teens onwards, with some meals!
A votre santé! Cheers! Salute! Tulleeho! Prost! Wen Lie!
- 7 Good Things About Red Wine
- 10 Best Foods To Reduce Cholesterol
- Am I Diabetic?
- 6 Health Benefits Of Banana
- Why Dark Chocolate Is Good For You?