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A Toast to Your Health

Nov 10, 2010 10:34PM ● Published by Anonymous

Here are some of the reasons why you should feel good about sipping your next glass of vino.

One of the first studies to uncover a link between wine consumption and possible health benefits revealed what is called the “French Paradox.” A “60 Minutes” interview in 1992 with French researcher Serge Renaud discussed groundbreaking findings from his study. Even though the French population studied had diets high in fat, they lived longer than their American counterparts due to the presence of wine in their daily diet. In the same interview, Professor R. Curtis Ellison of Boston, Massachusetts, verified Renaud’s findings based on his work on the Framingham Heart Study, which began in 1948. When Ellison published the Framingham studies, his findings about the benefits of wine were left out for fear it would be perceived as promoting alcohol use. Understanding wine’s heart healthy effects are especially important since heart disease is the number one killer in the world as well as the number one killer of women in the U.S.

There are several benefits from drinking wine that account for the “French Paradox.” One reason is that moderate consumption of wine (or any alcohol) increases our high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the good cholesterol. The only other things shown to increase HDL are a healthy low fat diet and exercise. Of these three, moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to be the most effective in raising good cholesterol, clearing fat from arterial walls. Like aspirin, alcohol acts as a blood thinner, reducing clotting along with risks of heart attack and stroke.

Another reason why wine is beneficial to our hearts is a result of the antioxidants found in the grape skins and seeds These antioxidants fight free radicals, which cause damage to our hearts and bodies overall. Antioxidants prevent low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the bad cholesterol, from attaching to arterial walls and have also been shown to prevent dementia. Red wine is far superior to white in its antioxidant capabilities; white wine has about 40 mg of polyphenols per glass as compared to reds, which are closer to 200 mg. This is a result of a difference in winemaking techniques. Red wine ferments with its grape skins but white wine does not. Other foods such as raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries also have healthy antioxidants.

Turns out it isn’t only our hearts that benefit. A recent study found that one particular antioxidant found in grape skins called resveratrol can have beneficial effects on the brain, gastric, and cardiovascular systems. This antioxidant is being studied for its ability to ward off development of tumors and cancer. Some grape varieties like Pinot Noir have higher levels than others, and even berries and nuts contain resveratrol. This study was not done on humans so more research will be needed.

One last benefit of drinking wine with a meal is that it tends to slow down eating allowing many people to feel full sooner. If you take time to sip your wine in between bites, rather than speed eating, the dining process slows down allowing your stomach time to recognize it is full (rather than stuffed). When time is taken to think about the interplay of food and wine, a more leisurely (and enjoyable) dining experience can be had by all. These are just a few highlights of the positive research regarding the health benefits of wine. To benefit from the positive side effects of wine you need to remember to limit your consumption to one glass of wine each night with dinner. Sharing a quality glass of wine with great food and the people we care about is a wonderful source of joy for people all over the world. Though unscientific, I’d like to think that happier people are healthier people in the end. Cheers!

NOTE — There is an exception to every rule about wine. There are studies that dispute the findings discussed above or show negative effects of even moderate wine consumption. Please consult with your doctor to determine what is appropriate for you.

Wine is a delicate beverage that, like our bodies, requires proper care to ensure its well-being. Here are a few tips to keep your wine optimal and tasty:

Avoid the chill. Do not store wine in a refrigerator unless it will be consumed within a few days. Most refrigerators constantly vibrate and maintain temperatures around 35–39°F with low humidity—not ideal conditions for wine. Smells in the refrigerator can also permeate the cork. Cool & even! Optimal temperature for wine storage is 52–57°F. Avoiding fluctuations of temperature is the most important thing so if you have a space that is consistently 60°F, that’s great!

These tips were taken from Forster’s new book, The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine. Professional wine educator, Laurie Forster, studied with the American Sommelier Association in Manhattan and earned a certificate in Viticulture and Vinification. For more information about wine consumption and your health, click here.

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