and Health ... benefits are
not without cautions ...
medical profession has recognized the healthful and nutritive properties
of wine for thousands of years. Recent archeological evidence shows wine was in use as a pharmaceutical as early as 3,150 B.C.1 Hippocrates recommended specific wines
to purge fever, disinfect and dress wounds, as diuretics, or for nutritional
supplements, around 450 B.C. A French doctor wrote the earliest known printed book about wine in 1410 A.D.
of the pathogens that threaten humans are inhibited or
killed off by the acids and alcohols in wine. Because of
this, wine was considered to be a safer drink than much
of the available water up until the 18th century.
is a mild natural tranquilizer, serving to reduce anxiety
and tension. As part of a normal diet, wine provides the
body with energy, with substances that aid digestion, and
with small amounts of minerals and vitamins. It can also
stimulate the appetite. In addition, wine serves to
restore nutritional balance, relieve tension, sedate and
act as a mild euphoric agent to the convalescent and
especially the aged.
wine may be the oldest remedy and prophylactic still in
use, there was an entire generation of medical
professionals, especially in America, that obtained their
medical education during the historical period known as Prohibition. Medical texts for nearly twenty-five
years were purged and censored of any mention of alcohol,
including wine, for any application other than external.
This medical generation became educators to the following
one, perpetuating medical ignorance of the potential
health benefits of wine.
the 1970s, the National Institute of Health excluded and suppressed
evidence from the Framingham
Heart Study that showed moderate drinkers had 50 per cent fewer
deaths from coronary disease than non-drinkers.
when the television news magazine "60 Minutes" reported in November,
1991, the phenomenon that has come to be known as the French Paradox did popular thinking of wine as medicine rather than toxin begin to
return. Typically, the diet of people in Southern France includes
a very high proportion of cheese, butter, eggs, organ meats, and other
fatty and cholesterol-laden foods. This diet would seem to promote heart disease, but the rate there was discovered to be much lower
than in America; herein lies the paradox.
& CORONARY BENEFITS
consumption of red wine on a regular basis may be a preventative
against coronary disease and some forms of cancer. The chemical
components thought to be responsible are catechins, also
known as flavonoids and related to tannins . Catechins are believed to function as anti-oxidants, preventing molecules
known as "free-radicals" from doing cellular damage. One
particular form of flavonoid, called oligomeric
procyanidin, recently proved to prevent hardening of the arteries.
are also compounds in grapes and wine (especially red wine, grape
juice, dark beers and tea, but absent in white wine, light beers
and spirits) called resveratrol and quercetin. Clinical
and statistical evidence and laboratory studies have shown these
may boost the immune system, block cancer formation, and possibly
protect against heart disease and even prolong life.
recent study, published in the 2004 year-end edition of the American
Journal of Physiology, indicates that resveratrol also inhibits
formation of a protein that produces a condition called cardio
fibrosis, which reduces the heart's pumping efficiency when it is needed most,
at times of stress. More
evidence suggests that wine dilates the small blood
vessels and helps to prevent angina and clotting. The
alcohol in wine additionally helps balance cholesterol
towards the good type.
is ongoing and it is a mistake for anyone to radically change their
consumption pattern based on preliminary data. A study of obese
mice showed that doses of resveratrol prolonged their life spans,
but for a human to duplicate this prescription using wine, he would
to drink over 250 gallons per day!2
Harvard study of factors that influence aging, as reported in the
May 8, 2003, issue of the journal Nature, has shown that
resveratrol extends the life span of yeast cells by 80%. Preliminary
results of tests on multi cellular animals are said to be encouraging;
study coauthor David Sinclair told Reuters News Agency that "Not
many people know about it yet, but those who do have almost invariably
changed their drinking habits, that is, they drink more red wine."
might even preserve cognitive function in the elderly. Several
European studies have shown the prophylactic effects of regular
light to moderate alcohol consumption may include the
prevention or postponement of Alzheimer's, Parkinson's
and other forms of dementia. Could wine be the original
study published in January, 2003, in the American Journal of Gastroenterology
showed that moderate, regular consumption of wine or beer decreases
the risk of peptic ulcers and may help to rid the body of the bacteria
suspected of causing them. Interestingly, both over-consumption,
especially of beer, and any regular consumption of spirits at all,
even at a low level, seemed to increase the ulcer risks.
Harvard School of Public Health conducted a 14-year study of over
100,000 women, aged 25 to 42, from 14 states. The Nurses Health Study
required participants to complete a questionnaire every two years,
detailing lifestyle choices and diagnoses of any medical conditions.
The subjects were categorized into three levels of alcohol consumption.
After factoring in such variables as family histories of diabetes
and smoking habits, the study found that women who drank regularly and moderately (one or two drinks per day, a total of 15
to 30 grams of alcohol) had a 58% lower likelihood of developing diabetes.
Both those levels that drank more or that drank less had a 20% lower
risk than either abstainers or former drinkers. When preferences for
types of alcohol were compared, those who chose beer and wine shared
similar levels of risk, but those in who drank spirits and consumed
more than 30 grams per day had a 150% higher risk to develop
diabetes than even non-drinkers.
medical studies point to multiple benefits of regular moderate wine
drinking that may include lowered risks of stroke, colorectal tumors,
skin and other types of cancers, senile dementia, and even the common
cold, as well as reduce the effects of scarring from radiation treatments.
official recommendation in the 1995 Dietary
Guidelines for Americans, Fourth Edition, published by the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration, is "Advice for today: if you drink alcoholic
beverages, do so in moderation, with meals, and when consumption does
not put you or others at risk." This is a rather weak and passive
permission, rather than the ringing endorsement moderate wine consumption
deserves, according to the vast majority of medical and scientific
evidence. It is, however, a progressive leap from the 1990 Guidelines,
which said, "wine has no net health benefit", which is the contemporary
scientific equivalent of saying "the earth is flat". (see Wine
the other hand, wine is not a cure-all and not everyone should drink
wine. There are also circumstances when no one should drink
any alcohol. When combined with certain over-the-counter or prescription drugs, for example,
alcohol in any form can produce an adverse reaction (see the 5th paragraph under "Headaches" below). Wine should not
be given to people with inflammations of the digestive tract, peptic
ulcers, liver disease, pancreatitis, kidney or urinary infections,
prostate disorders, epilepsy, or alcoholism. As previously mentioned,
pre-menopausal women with a family history of breast cancer should
abstain from drinking any alcohol, including wine.
Sulfites exist in nature and are also naturally contained in or even added
to preserve a very long list of many common foods, including
wine, cheese, yogurt and other processed dairy, bread and baked
goods, tortillas, dried fruits, dried spices, shellfish,
dried seafood, canned, bottled, or frozen fruits and juices,
jams and jellies, tofu and other soy protein products, packaged
pasta or rice mixes, etc.. The
human body actually produces about 1 gram of sulfites daily through
1% of the general population and about 5% of asthma sufferers may
react to sulfites. Symptoms commonly include restricted breathing
ability to varying degrees from mild to severe, even life-threatening,
especially in asthmatics prescribed to steroids. Skin rashes, hives,
itching and nausea are relatively rare symptoms for sulfite allergy.
Reactions depend on both the
sensitivity of the individual and the level of sulfites ingested.
Headaches are not a symptom of sulfite reaction, although this
is a common folk tale (see next section).
may legally contain sulfites at levels ranging from 6 to 6,000
parts per million. The legal maximum for wine is 350 ppm, but the
average content in premium wine is under 40 ppm. White wines are
generally higher in sulfites than red wines. Inexpensive wines
generally have higher sulfur content than expensive wines. There
are no wines that are entirely sulfite-free, even those labeled "organic".
best advice is to waste no time thinking about sulfites, unless your
personal physician has warned you against them. For a more complete
discussion, visit our article on Understanding
affecting some people (estimated to be less than 1% of the human population) during or after consuming wine, may result
from individual reactions to one or more of wines' natural compounds.
Although clinical trials have produced inconsistent results, red
wine is suspected by some sufferers to trigger migraine headaches.
clinical evidence has shown that phenolic flavonoids (the same
ones that provide anti-oxidant benefits), a component in grape
skins related to tannins, to be the most probable culprits. Red
wine has a much higher content than white wine of both tannins
September, 2006, UC Davis Professor David Mills announced his research
in the field of genetic mapping
indicates that slightly modified amino acids in red wine are responsible
for the headaches. Professor Mills says slight changes in
fermentation techniques will be able to solve the problem.
Scientist Dr. Giuseppe Palmisano, doing post-doctoral research in 2010, at the University of Southern Denmark, discovered some common chemistry shared by wine and known allergens. Dr. Palmisano's main interest is studying glycosylation (the formation of compounds bonding carbohydrates to protein) both in allergenics and in metastatic progressions. He developed a sensitive, resilient, and fairly simple test procedure to identify glycoproteins, in order to measure the quantity of cells affected and their level of transformation. Knowing glycosylation also occurs in wine, he tested a Chardonnay and identified 28 separate grape glycoproteins, many sharing great similarity to previously identified allergens present in bananas, kiwis, latex, and tomatoes. Further testing is needed to test the potential human reactions to these compounds. This could ultimately lead to changes in viticulture practices or wine production methods that would render wines less likely to cause allergic reactions.
called amines either dilate (histamines) or constrict (tyramines)
blood vessels in the brain, either of which may cause headaches
in a small segment of the population.
Aged and fermented foods such as cheese, sauerkraut, salami,
and sourdough bread are high in histamines. Although both red
and white wines contain histamines, reds generally have higher
content, especially low-acid reds made from grapes grown in warmer
areas. Chocolate, vanilla, beans, nuts, bananas, cultured products
like cheese and yogurt and fermented products, especially dark
beer, soy sauce and red wine are all significant sources of tyramines.
Taking antihistamine drugs, either before or after consuming,
won't prevent or cure headaches.
use of either aspirin or acetaminophen (the active ingredient in
Tylenol) either before of after alcohol consumption can seriously
damage the lining of the stomach and should be avoided. The combination
of acetaminophen and ethanol causes liver damage, so the former
should never be used to treat hangover symptoms.
only way to prevent a hangover is to avoid consuming too much alcohol.
One good habit to develop is to match every glass of wine or drink
with one full glass of water. Alcohol depletes electrolytes from the
body and brain, so "sports" drinks can help also. The worst
possible hangover "cure" is "hair of the dog",
since hangover is merely the winky-winky, socially-tolerant slang
term to describe episodic alcoholism withdrawal.
Overindulgence is potentially the worst health problem of consuming wine or any alcoholic
too much ethanol at one time will cause headaches, nausea, and other
symptoms for anyone, regardless of individual tolerance to other compounds
in wine. Drinking
too much or too fast leads to loss of control and judgment.
A couple of glasses of wine may help relaxation and lower blood pressure,
but four or more raises blood pressure to a level of concern.
enters the bloodstream while it passes from the stomach to the small
intestine and continues to the liver which uses an enzyme called dehydrogenase
to break down and eliminate alcohol from the body. Evidence suggests
factors of body size, muscle mass, food intake, gender, and experience
affect one's capacity to resist drunkenness to some degree. On average,
a healthy human can metabolize one-half ounce of alcohol per hour.
The best rule is to not consume more than one drink (4 ounces of table
wine) per hour, regardless of size, sex, or a full stomach.
in moderation and consumed with food at mealtime, wine drinking may
develop cultural and sociological patterns that actually help to prevent
alcoholism. The vast majority of healthy people may enjoy wine regularly
and moderately as a pleasure that supports and prolongs a gracious
1. University of Pennsylvania Museum's article "5,100 Year Old Chemical Evidence For Ancient Medicinal Remedies Discovered in Ancient Egyptian Wine Jars" and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America article "Ancient Egyptian Wine Jars". RETURN
2. In December, 2010, pharmaceutical manufacturer Glaxo-Smith-Kline suspended clinical trials of a resveratrol-based drug (SRT501) as a prophylaxis for human circulatory health, due to minimal efficacy and potential to exacerbate renal failure. (see Biopharmconsortium BLOG for complete story). RETURN
RECOMMENDED READING The late wine writer Gene Ford specialized in researching, reporting, and explaining topics related to alcohol consumption and health in his articles and books, including The Science of Healthy Drinking.
Note that while some of these linked articles are several years old, they provide historical and background information.
Per-Henrik Mansson sums up current findings
in his article Eat
Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer, from the November, 2001, online
edition of the Wine Spectator.
the Evidence of Wine's Cardioprotection is the topic of this article by Creina Stockley of the Australian
Wine Research Institute.
Professor Andrew Waterhouse has an article
about Sulfites on his Wine Chemical Composition site at UC Davis.
A very thorough discussion of various
aspects of Sulfites is included on the Organic Wine Company web site.