The French seem to know something about the health benefit of red wine. In a study that compared French and German red wines, the French red wines delivered a greater health benefit due to their higher level of antioxidants.
In 1991, the television program "60 Minutes" aired a report called The French Paradox. The program explored the benefit of red wine and the heart attack rates of daily moderate wine drinkers in southern France; their rate is one of the lowest in the world, and their food among the unhealthiest.
So have you thought about having a glass of wine with dinner lately?
One of the most studied antioxidants in red wine is resveratrol, a compound found in the seeds and skins of grapes.
Red wine has a high concentration of resveratrol because the skins and seeds ferment in the grapes' juices during the red wine-making process. This prolonged contact during fermentation produces significant levels of resveratrol in the finished red wine.
Resveratrol is a type of polyphenol called a phytoalexin, a class of compounds produced as part of a plant's defense system against disease. It is produced in the plant in response to an invading fungus, stress, injury, infection, or ultraviolet irradiation.
Red wine contains high levels of resveratrol, as do grapes, raspberries, peanuts, and other plants.
Beliefs in the benefit of red wine got a boost in 2006 when Harvard Medical School researchers found that resveratrol made mice live longer, more active lives, even if the mice made pigs of themselves.
The study, reported in the journal Nature, showed that with daily doses of resveratrol, middle-aged mice on an unhealthy, fat-heavy food regimen remained as healthy, or even healthier, than those eating much less fat.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, people who drink in moderation are different from non-drinkers or heavy drinkers in ways that could influence health and disease. Part of a national 1985 health interview survey showed that moderate drinkers were more likely than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers to be at a healthy weight, to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night, and to exercise regularly.
The definition of moderate drinking is something of a balancing act. Moderate drinking sits at the point at which the health benefits of alcohol clearly outweigh the risks. The latest consensus places this point at one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women - moderation seems to be the key.
By consuming blue, red, purple and black-skinned plants rich in resveratrol, humans may gain these protective benefits. Early medical research proves this to be true, as resveratrol has been shown in preliminary research on experimental animals to:
· Increase blood flow and reduce the extent of brain cell damage following stroke.
· Reduce the activity of brain inflammatory mediators in a model of Alzheimer’s disease.
· Reduce vascular plaque formation in rats given a high-fat diet.
· Improve the rate of healing in skin wounds.
· Protect against lipid oxidation in a model of pancreatitis.
· Protect against cellular pathology in a model of diabetic kidney disease.
· Protect against liver damage in a model of cholestasis or bile duct occlusion.
· Protect against cartilage deterioration in a model of osteoarthritis.
· Stimulate anti-clotting mechanisms in blood.
· Suppress appetite and in turn contribute to weight control or loss.
· Enhance sperm production.
· Inhibit formation of cataracts.
· Inhibit proliferation of the herpes simplex virus.
· Prolong the lives of yeast cells, worms, fish and fruit flies, possibly through mechanisms that affect aging via slowing the rate of cell death.
Resveratrol’s most compelling health effect shown in laboratory studies is its broad-spectrum anti-cancer activity. The online database of medical literature for the US National Institutes of Health, PubMed, cites nearly 500 publications over the past decade of research on resveratrol as a cancer chemopreventive nutrient.
Experimental models of breast, prostate, lung, blood, skin, brain, kidney, bladder, tongue, esophagus and colon cancer show evidence for beneficial effects of resveratrol.
Another benefit of red wine and resveratrol is that it appears also to sensitize cells toward cancer therapy agents, improving the benefit of these drugs. Also, when combined with other plant-derived phenolics, resveratrol’s anti-cancer actions seem to be enhanced, showing the potential benefits of antioxidant synergy from a mixed diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables rich in phytochemicals.
Resveratrol’s actions to inhibit inflammatory mediators and the growth of new blood vessels in tumors (called anti-angiogenesis), plus its ability to accelerate the rate of cancer cell death (called apoptosis, “eh-po-toe-sis”), are synergistic effects in anti-cancer activity.
In other experiments, resveratrol inhibited enzymes synthesizing nitro-oxygen radicals like nitric oxide that may be involved in cancer development.
To summarize, resveratrol acts against mechanisms controlling the initiation, promotion and progression of tumor cell growth in laboratory models. It is considered one of the most promising natural anti-cancer agents. Fortunately for us, resveratrol can be easily introduced into the diet by selecting foods like:
· Red grapes and dark grape juice.
· Red wines (and even white ones, but with lower resveratrol levels).
· Blackberries, blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries (and their juices).
· Peanuts with skins and peanut butter
So sit back, relax and enjoy a little vino, it really is a benefit to your health.