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A Wine a Day…

By Debra Meiburg MW

Welcome to 2012! Yes, the holiday season can bring a little over-indulgence, but before the ink dries on that New Year’s resolution to wind down on your wine, consider this.

“Red wine is indeed good for your health” affirms cardiothoracic specialist Dr. Michael Hsin. Wine drinkers are not only healthier than non-wine-drinkers, but smarter and psychologically more stable – at least according to a 2001 study at Copenhagen’s Institute of Preventative Medicine.

Even the staid US government has woken up to the health benefits of wine – once the financial impact was made clear. According to a study published by the Health Care Financing Review (a US Department of Health and Human Resources journal), “Seniors who drink moderate amounts of wine – six to 13 glasses a week – are likely to have lower Medicare expenses than non-drinkers.” (Note that’s per week, not per evening). How consumers on Medicare are to fund their weekly intake of Lafite and Latour isn’t discussed in the study.

The good news about wine’s health benefits rolls in regularly. A State University of New York at Stony Brook study claims that drinking three glasses of red wine a day cuts the risk of colorectal cancers by 68 per cent. And scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health say that men with hypertension are 30 per cent less likely to have a heart attack if they drink one or two glasses of wine a day.

The primary explanation of wine’s health effects is due to its source material. Grape skins are loaded with phenolic compounds called flavonoids as well as other antioxidants. These compounds appear to inhibit the formation of blood clots and reduce the artery-clogging propensities of low-density lipids (LDL), the “bad” form of cholesterol. Also found in grape skins is a substance called resveratrol, which seems to inhibit tumour development in numerous cancers. Red wines are considered healthier than white wines due to their extended maceration with grape skins. But why not grab a handful of grapes or a cup of grape juice instead of braving a hangover? In juice, the healthy phenolic compounds are largely degraded due to their exposure to oxygen whereas wine delivers the flavonoids and antioxidants to our bodies in a preserved state. Juice is still heart-helpful, but perhaps not as effective as wine. Fresh grapes and other fruits deliver similar health benefits, but it is difficult to consume them in sufficient quantities to make an impact.

It seems not a week goes by without alarming announcements that Asia is facing a cardiovascular disease epidemic due to increases in obesity, high blood pressure and smoking. These studies are not based on small isolated incidences: findings pooled by the Asia Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration www.apcsc.info were based on 600,000 people involved in 43 studies in nine Asian countries. Take heart. According to a 40-year study of 1,373 subjects living in the Dutch town of Zutphen, men who drink a least a half-glass of wine a wine live an average of four years longer than teetotalers. Based on New Year’s Eve’s consumption, most of my wine-guzzling friends should still be belting out “Auld Lang Syne” well into the 2080’s.

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