The news from the Sixth International Wine and Heart Health Symposium at Silverado Resort in Napa Valley was mixed. The data was presented at the symposium for physicians and researchers. The symposium was organized by Dr. Tedd Goldfinger and the Desert Health Foundation, and among the featured speakers were Dr. Serge Renaud, who discovered the “French Paradox,” and Dr. Curtis Ellison, who has been a leader in promoting the health benefits of wine.
On one hand, research has overturned the popular view that polyphenol antioxidants in red wines “scour” harmful free radicals from the blood, leaving researchers still searching to find exactly why wines reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The most potent antioxidants in most wine, in fact, are sulfites and there are more in white wines than red wines. Some medical researchers even report that it’s difficult to prove that red wine is more effective than white in reducing cardiovascular disease, though there’s little question that wine is more effective than other alcoholic beverages or unfermented fruit juices.
Despite the development, researchers nonetheless presented overwhelming evidence that wine is not only good for the heart and arteries, but helps numerous other health problems as well. This was reported after extensive analysis of numerous studies, some seemingly contradictory.
You are what you drink
By analyzing and eliminating factors that compromise studies, doctors at Kaiser Permanente have confirmed that moderate consumption of wine does indeed reduce the risk for deaths from coronary and vascular disease. They also found that it reduces the risk for ischemic stokes, diabetes and even gallstones.
Other research demonstrates that low to moderate use of wine helps suppress E. coli and other digestive bacteria, including those that can cause colorectal and gastric cancer. In addition, wine improves cognitive function as you age; the traditional advice to drink less as you get older doesn’t seem true at all.
Of course, excessive drinking can lead to many health problems, and as Robert Mondavi once put it, “Some people are allergic to alcohol, just as some are allergic to peanuts.” For those who aren’t affected adversely, many of the studies presented refuted common recommendations and suggest moderate drinking may be as much as 3 to 5 glass of wine a day for an average man, more than the typically recommended 1 or 2 glasses per day.
One concern is that alcohol seems to increase the incidence of breast cancer, even with moderate drinking, but since many more women die from heart disease (1 in 2) than breast cancer (1 in 25), the numbers still favor moderate wine consumption. Women and older people actually benefit more proportionately from wine than even younger men.
Sipping to slim down
Two other side findings of the research presented indicate some good news for those trying to lose weight: The optimum Body Mass Index—a measure of appropriate weight—is about 26 for lowest heart risk, classed as slightly overweight by current government charts. Even better, moderate wine drinking may actually help discourage obesity as the body seems to metabolize alcohol immediately, not store it as fat.