Pass the Red Wine Please

June 22, 2011

Feel like you need a reason to include a glass of red wine with your dinner; read on to find out more.

Back in 1991, 60 Minutes aired a report featuring the "French Paradox" and it changed attitudes and consumption of red wine. The episode reported that the French had a 42 percent lower incidence of heart disease than Americans, and somehow managed to accomplish this with one of the highest fat diets in the world; the reason seemed to be that along with this diet, the French consumed plenty of red wine. Numerous studies have surfaced since then, that have further explored the health benefits of red wine.

Researchers have been able to make a strong argument for the positive relationship between moderate red wine drinking and prevention of certain cancers, heart disease and even an increase in lifespan.

So what is it about red wine that has researchers so interested? Resveratrol - it’s a polyphenol found in grapes, red wine, purple grape juice, peanuts and some red berries. It primarily acts as an antioxidant, “mopping up” free radicals in the body. Our need for antioxidants is derived from a paradox in metabolism. Our bodies require oxygen to function, but oxygen - by itself - is highly reactive and creates harmful byproducts through oxidation. These byproducts, called free radicals, are potentially damaging to cells - thus antioxidants can stabilize free radicals before they cause harm.

Why do plants produce Resveratrol? Some types of plants produce resveratrol in response to stress, injury, fungal infection, or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

So what does the research say? Results from the Southern Californian study of over 84 thousand men, 45 to 69 years old, followed for over six years, demonstrated that those who had ever smoked and who drank at least one glass of red wine daily, were 60 percent less likely to develop lung cancer than those smokers who did not drink alcohol. After accounting for all relevant factors, researchers found that lung cancer risk steadily decreased with red wine drinking, with a two percent drop seen with each additional glass of red wine a man drank per month. No other type of alcoholic beverage, including white wine, was associated with lung cancer risk.

In another study from Seattle, men who consumed an average of four to seven glasses of red wine per week were 52 percent less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer as those who did not drink red wine. The study, was conducted on men between the ages of 40 and 64, and found red wine drinking was correlated with a reduced prostate cancer risk. Even low amounts of red wine consumption had a beneficial effect, with each additional glass contributing a relative risk decline of six percent.

Resveratrol has also demonstrated an anti-inflammatory ability as well as an ability to inhibit the molecules that lead to build up on the arterial walls, both are associated with heart disease.

Before you run out to the nearest wine store or supermarket to stock up - remember that moderation in all foods and beverages is the key to overall good health and can lower the risk of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.