Friday, April 25, 2014

Wine and Antioxidants - Why Wine in Moderation is Good for You

This post was contributed by Jenni Gunter.

Due to a wealth of recent studies, the scientific community is increasingly reaching the conclusion that drinking wine (in moderation, of course) could be very good for your health. If you consider the odd glass of vino to be a guilty and unhealthy indulgence – then read on. You are about to be pleasantly surprised…

Free Radicals and Antioxidants

You have probably heard of ‘free radicals’. Since their discovery, these unstable oxidized molecules have been subjected to intense scrutiny by the world of health and nutritional science, with the invariable conclusion that free radicals are responsible not only for much age-related bodily wear and tear, but also for the kind of cell mutation and degradation which causes many of the most devastating diseases. In the last few years, research has shown that the body can use ‘antioxidants’ to combat the action of free radicals – leading to the growth of a lucrative industry in antioxidants. Vitamin companies like Healthy America sell “Universal antioxidants” to “provide support for a…wide range of bodily systems”, and companies like Vitamix promote their product by advertising its potential to create “Antioxidant rich smoothie[s]”. However, one of the richest sources of antioxidants comes in the form of wine.

Resveratrol and the Heart

A 2007 study discovered that red wine is rich in antioxidants and, when consumed in moderation, is beneficial to overall health. “Red wine provides general oxidative protection” the researchers concluded, “…via the increase in antioxidant status”. One of the most powerful antioxidants found within red wine is a polyphenol called resveratrol. Resveratrol comes from the skins of red grapes and appears to be rather fantastic for the cardiovascular system. The Linus Pauling Institute speaks of “significant reductions in cardiovascular disease risk” for red wine drinkers as a direct result of resveratrol’s multiplicity of heart-healthy actions. This has led to red wine becoming the tipple of choice for those who wish to look after their hearts. However, a University of Barcelona study found that white wines are not deficient in this area either. White wines can help to reduce low-grade cardiovascular inflammation and raise levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol- both of which are vital in the maintenance of a healthy heart. Dr Curtis Ellison of Boston University noted that the study showed the ways in which “both red and white wine help prevent heart disease”.

Champagne for Dementia

Champagne is proving to have exciting antioxidant properties as well. It is believed that two red grape varieties which abound in Champagne – pinot noir and pinot meunier – deliver a wealth of antioxidant phenols into the beverage. These in turn give Champagne some phenomenal impacts upon the brain. A study conducted by the UK’s University of Reading found that a glass of Champagne a day could even help to stave off dementia. The study focused upon the action of antioxidant phenolic compounds within Champagne. According to the University, “these compounds work by modulating signals in the hippocampus and cortex, which control memory and learning”, going on to add that regular moderate consumption of champagne could not only stimulate these signals, but work to prevent neural degradation – concluding that “Champagne may…help prevent the cognitive losses that occur during typical and atypical brain ageing".

Be Responsible

The benefits of drinking wine in moderation are many. However, the keyword is ‘moderation’. Doctor David J. Hanson, a proponent of the health benefits of alcohol, is very clear upon the topic. While he speaks enthusiastically about the health advantages gained through responsible consumption of alcohol, he goes on to state that “Drinking any of these alcoholic beverages heavily or abusively is associated with poor health and reduced longevity”. The consequences of overdoing it can be devastating. As point out, “Alcoholism is a deadly disease, taking the lives of 37,500 Americans due to alcoholic liver disease and other alcohol-related causes”. So be extremely careful when imbibing routinely. Make sure to do so in moderation – no more than one or two units per day – and desist the moment you feel that you may be becoming dependent upon your evening tipple.

Indulge Your Health

For those who are able to drink responsibly, the health benefits of wine are too good to ignore. No longer need you feel that a glass of wine of an evening is a ‘guilty indulgence’. In fact, the evidence points overwhelmingly to the contrary. Weighing up the evidence, the Doctor’s Health Press published a recent article stating that “moderate drinkers are living longer than those who abstain”, and a wealth of studies into the topic have found similar results. So keep tasting, enjoying, and learning about wine – it could be the best thing you ever do for your health!

This article contains general information about wine and medical research.  It should not be treated as medical advice.

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