A Little Wine Is More Than Fine (For Your Health)

“Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

― Louis Pasteur

[This post will conclude my research into (and posts about) the multiple healthful benefits of the majority of the top 10 beverages consumed world-wide according to their popularity: #1 – coffee (“Caffeinate Me” and “Caffeinate Me – A Follow-up”), #2 – tea (“If Not Coffee, Then Tea?”), #4 – beer (“On Beer and Health”), and #7 – vodka (“The Virtues of Vodka”). As I’ve previously noted, #3 is orange juice (whose health properties need no discussion), #5 is Coca Cola (that has no redeeming health benefits), #8 is sports drinks (that I’m uninterested in and the jury is out on whether they are of any good), #9 is soups (fairly obvious they’re healthful), and #10 is breast milk (which I gave up long ago).]

Wine, a drink I have more than a passing acquaintance with, comes in at #6 as a top 10 most drunk (no pun intended) beverage in the world. Perhaps it’s because “Wine makes every meal an occasion, every table more elegant, every day more civilized” (Andre Simon).

Or perhaps it’s because “A bottle of wine begs to be shared” (Clifton Fadiman). We once hosted in our backyard a wine tasting, inviting 50 of our oenophile friends and poured some 70 bottles of every varietal description. Many found new brands or types they hadn’t considered or tried before to be their new favorite. But you don’t have to go to that extreme, just visit a few wineries and sample some – an easy thing to do, there are wineries in just about every state. Here’s a good excuse for a road trip! – some 3,200 wineries in the U.S, and here in California more than 1,200 (which produces 90% of all wine made in the U.S.)

So, let’s move on then to why you should drink wine (if you don’t already) and maybe more of it (if you do) to be a little healthier:

• Compared to teetotalers, wine drinkers cut their risk of dying prematurely by almost one third, and wine drinkers as a group have significantly lower mortality. (Actually, according to scientists, drinking any kind of alcoholic beverage helps, but by far the biggest benefit was found in wine.) 

• Wine dilates arteries and increases blood flow, thus lowering the risk of the kind of clots that cut off blood supply and damage heart muscles.

• It boosts levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and helps prevent LDL, or bad cholesterol, from causing damage to the lining of arteries. Those who imbibe the equivalent of a glass or two of wine each day have significantly higher levels of “good” cholesterol that remove the “bad” artery-clogging LDLs before they have a chance to choke blood vessels. 

• Additionally, substances in wine called phenols help prevent the bad cholesterol from causing injury by limiting the oxidation of LDLs, making them less capable of damaging the linings of arteries and, therefore, less able to set the stage for cardiovascular disease, like heart disease and stroke.

• It shields against cancer: the same phenolic compounds that lower heart disease risk also slow the growth of breast cancer cells, have been shown to suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells, and that an antioxidant in wine called resveratrol can put the brakes on the growth of liver cancer cells. Wine – particularly red wine – contains resveratrol and another antioxidant called quercetin that inhibit the growth of oral cancer cells. And red wine is loaded with a slew of other antioxidants that boost its cancer-fighting abilities.

• Moderate drinkers (just one glass a day for women, two for men), have a 23% reduced risk of mental decline compared with nondrinkers, with greater retention of words and faster performance in the portion of the brain associated with the formation of new memories, learning, and emotions.

• Wine improves heart, brain, and bone function (it increases bone density), the same way these parts are improved when you go to the gym (so unless you like sweat, which would you rather spend your money on?)

• Wine helps you relax. Two to seven glasses of wine per week makes you less likely to be diagnosed with depression. 

• Wine helps promote healthy eyes: the resveratrol in wine stops out-of-control blood vessel growth in the eyes, and studies show it may help with treatment of diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration.

• Drinking wine protects your teeth by killing five of the common oral plaque-causing bacteria.

As Benjamin Franklin said,  “…wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”  (Don’t overlook the fact – you religious sorts – that Jesus’ first miracle was changing some water into wine to continue the celebration at a wedding he was a guest at when the host ran out of wine. No disrespect meant, but I can imagine Jesus saying, “Party On!”)

So. There it is. Wine is good. L’Chaim!

 I’ll end with the usual “I have no financial interests in said beverage (other than the amount of money I spend in purchasing and consuming); always consume in moderation; I am not an M.D., so consult with yours if you have any medical issues or questions. The information above has been gleaned from many sources and no warranty – explicit or implied – to the verity of the foregoing is confered.”

– Bill

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