Be careful with studies touting red wine benefits

Wine, especially red, has been studied quite extensively over the last number of years and much has been written about its health benefits. The majority of what has been touted about it has to do with “resveratrol”, a compound found in the skins of red grapes and other plants.

Those plants that possess it produce it to naturally fight off bacteria and fungi and protect them from ultraviolet rays. Its power to fight off things carries over to humans as well. Check out all the benefits that moderate consumption of red wine can supposedly render.

Several universities in Spain report that it may reduce the risk of depression. Scientists at the University of Leicester in the UK say that it can prevent colon cancer. Harvard Medical School claims it has anti-aging properties. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that it prevents breast cancer.

A group of researchers at Loyola University Medical Center found that it reduces the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s. The University of Barcelona in Spain reported that it could protect against severe sunburn. The Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis touts that it can prevent blindness. Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine concludes that it may prevent further damage in the brain after a stroke.

Dutch scientists reported that it improves lung function and can prevent lung cancer. European researchers from various countries say it raises levels of omega-3 fatty acids in red blood cells and plasma. A study conducted at the UC San Diego School of Medicine concluded that it can prevent liver disease.

A study in Harvard Men’s Health Watch reported that it can protect against prostate cancer. The Chinese Academy of Sciences discovered that it can prevent against type 2 diabetes and there is evidence that it can prevent heart disease. Some recent research even claims that it may prevent dental cavities and could be used to treat acne.

The operative word in all of this is of course consumption in “moderation”. What exactly does that mean? One would think that if something is good for you, then the more you partake, the more the benefits. Not so! There is a fine line between an acceptable amount and going too far.

Beyond what scientists say is the acceptable amount, the health benefits are negated and damage can be done. Of course there are many variables that determine what is the acceptable amount for you such as your size, age, body stature, physical health, medication you are on and whether you drink with food or without.

Perhaps the most important factor is your gender. As women absorb alcohol more quickly than men because of lower body water content and specific stomach enzymes, moderate consumption for them will be lower. The numbers for moderate consumption generally say men should not ingest more than two standard drinks per day and women no more than one. A standard drink is around 5 oz.

Unfortunately, resveratrol is in such small amounts in red wine that one would theoretically have to drink mega amounts to really benefit. Not a good thing. Furthermore, the liver breaks down purified resveratrol very quickly.

Now, if they could only put this magic component in a pill format that would bypass alcohol entirely. But wait. Scientists are trying to do just that. Researchers in Australia have been experimenting blending it with wine’s other components that appear to make it more effective. I wonder if it will come in different varietals?

Edward Finstein is a wine writer, award-winning author, TV and radio host, educator, judge

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