By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
Drinking a small quantity of alcohol daily, especially the wines, may be associated with an increase in life expectancy in middle-aged men.
Although the Americans and French have similar high fat diets, the French have a much lower incidence of cardiovascular disease. Speculation was that this is due to the protective effects of wine consumption, since French drink much more wine than water, and may be there are other explanations, too.
A new study by original “French Paradox” researcher Serge Renaud has said that there is more evidence that moderate wine consumption is associated with a significant reduction in all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease and cancer among men. The findings (Epidemiology, March, 1998) were based on a large cohort studies (cohort studies are epidemiological studies that use individuals having a statistical element in common, such as race, gender, age, etc., as opposed to a random selection of individuals. As such, the results cannot always be projected to the population as a whole.) of middle aged men in eastern France .
Dutch researchers, reporting on March 1, 2007, at The American Heart Association’s 47 th Annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease and Prevention, found that consuming a glass or two of wine per day traced for more than 40 years was associated with a lower rate of cardiovascular death and of death from all causes, and a nearly four year increase in lifespan.
Does any alcohol benefits health?
Mild to moderate consumption of any form of alcohol daily, will benefit as an all-rounder, relaxing the brain, lowering tension, stress, helping sleep, increasing the good cholesterol, and moreover an adjuvant for socialising. The added advantages of wine are that it is more protective than beer or heavy liquor according to the Annals ofInternal Medicine (Vol: 133,pg.411-419). Red wines are singled out compared to the whites, because of the combination of alcohol and certain materials contained in the grape skin: polyphenol compounds, flavonoids, and nonflavinoids. These appear to act as antioxidants and also contains the property of dilating blood vessels, resulting in lowering the blood pressure. Proanthocyanide is a specific antioxidant present in red wine.
Health benefits of red wine
Red wine relaxes and dilates the blood vessels like Omega 3 oils, and helps improve cardiovascular condition, make healthy arteries, and benefits by lowering percentage of heart attacks among regular consumers.
A new study from researchers at the University Hospital of Zurich, Switzerland, found a mechanism for how alcohol favourably affects arterial muscle cells. According to Wilhelm Vetter, M.D., and colleagues, alcohol, when consumed around mealtime, reduces the proliferation of smooth muscle cells within the arteries. Smooth muscle cells growth is a key element in the development of atherosclerosis (hardening of blood vessels), which commonly leads to heart attacks and strokes.
Many studies investigated the benefits of red wine (one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) and were found to lower the risk of heart attack for people in middle age by 30-50 percent. It is also suggested that alcohol such as red wine may prevent additional heart attacks if you have already suffered from one. Red wine may help prevent blood clots and reduce the blood vessel damage caused by fat deposits.
Professor Roger Corder, from the William Harvey Research Institute, at Queen Mary, University of London, said: “There is a 19 th Century expression: ‘A man is only as oldas his arteries’, which can be taken to mean that those with the healthiest arteries live longer.
Feel for your own radial artery on the outer border of the wrist and roll it under your index finger. Elastic healthy arteries feel resilient and soft, whilst unhealthy vessels feel thick and resistant.
Heart is deprived of its oxygen reaching through the blood circulation when the arteries get thickened and get blocked up with clots. In 1786, the English Doctor Herbeden noted that wine relieved pains of patients suffering from heart pain (angina)
In 1970, researches were initiated by Doctor Arthur Klatsky, cardiologist at the “Kaiser Permanente”, hospital center in Oakland ( California). He initiated a study on over 100 000 people.
The first results were published in 1974, and indicated the fact that the risk of death from coronary diseases (notable myocardial infarct) was lower for moderate consumers (1 to3 glasses of wine a day), than those who did not drink at all.
Doctor Rimm of the School of Public Health of Harvard- Cambridge- Massachusetts calculated that the risk of heart disease was reduced from 25 to 45% for people drinking 1or 2 glasses of wine a day.
Wine and Cancer
Laboratory mice genetically inclined to develop cancer from food containing solid red wine extracts. A team of researchers did California this research, from the University of Davis.
The result was that it took much longer than normal for those mice to develop cancer and their life expectation increased by 40% in comparison with that of mice normally fed. Researchers attribute this result to the presence in red wine of polyphenols, in particular catechin (present in tea) and to their anti-oxidising properties, as mentioned previously.
Resveratrol – anti Cancer agent
A recent article in the New York Times said that it seems that resveratrol, present in the skin of grapes, inhibits the action of agents favouring cancer. Researchers have pointed out that this chemical is converted in the body to a known anti-cancer agent that can selectively target and destroy cancer cells.
Resveratrol is manufactured in grape wines as a defensive molecule against fungus in grapes and other crops, and is found at higher levels in those which have not been treated with man made fungicides. It has a molecular structure similar to that of diethylstilbestrol, a synthetic oestrogen. This prompted Barry D.Gehn, Larry Jameson, M.D. and colleagues at North-western to investigate whether resveratrol might have pharmacological properties similar to those of oestradiol, the major natural human oestrogen.
As reported in the Dec. 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the group’s laboratory studies showed that resveratrol is oestrogenic.
Resveratrol against breast cancer
The researchers also found that resveratrol could replace oestradiol in supporting the proliferation of certain breast cancer cells that require oestrogen for growth. Taking a glass of red wine daily may benefit those victims of breast cancer on long-term anti-oestrogenic medication. Statistics also show an increase in breast cancer in women who drink alcohol. This is not a significant finding. However, women who suffer from breast cancer and has a history should consult her family physician before embarking on a regime of drinking wine regularly.
The oestrogenic properties of resveratrol may play a role in the beneficial cardiovascular effects of red wine and the so-called “French paradox,” Gehm said. Oestrogen is known to provide some protection against heart disease, and red wine also appears to. Their specific effects are similar, most notably, increasing high- density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good cholesterol.” This effect of red wine may be mediated by resveratrol.
It appears that resveratrol seems to reduce the incidence of strokes and decrease the negative effects a stroke may produce in the brain. Some evidence even suggests that red wine may have a protective effect on the gall bladder.
Resveratrol for longevity
Researchers have known for years that cutting calories can prolong life in everything from yeast cells to mammals. One of the molecules in resveratrol, was shown in a study to extend the life span of yeast cells by up to 80 percent. This finding will help researchers to develop a drug that lengthen life and prevent or treat aging-related diseases. Resveratrol is available in powder form in the U.S. Experiments on worms and flies given small doses of resveratrol were yielding “encouraging” results. Similar trials are being planned on mice.
Women Wine Drinkers have fewer Kidney Stones
A new study from Harvard University researcher Gary Curhan and colleagues, using more than 81,000 women participants drawn from the Nurses’ Health Study, found that there was a reduction in risk up to 59% among the wine drinkers, compared to other beverages, including coffee, tea, fruit juices and milk. Curhan and colleagues reported similar results for men and kidney stones in 1996. Wine consumption was associated with highest risk reduction- 39%.
Moderate drinking cut women’s risk of Diabetes
New research suggests that drinking moderate amounts of alcohol may help prevent healthy postmenopausal women from developing diabetes, as heart disease. According to the report from Reuters Health, New York, women who consumed one or two drinks a day were better able to respond to insulin, a hormone that helps cells use sugar for energy.
Should I start drinking more red wine now?
The answer is No. Studies have shown that alcohol drinking may increase triglycerides (fat is transported through blood vessels and stored in the body as triglycerides). These fats prevent the protective action of good cholesterol removing the bad cholesterol from the blood stream. Alcohol also adds unnecessary calories creating weight problems and further damaging the liver. So remember that prolonged excessive alcohol consumption is detrimental to one’s health.
Only the rich can enjoy a glass of red wine in Sri Lanka, and live longer, whilst the poor are deprived due to the exorbitant prices. We could enjoy true democratic socialistic freedom, when every Sri Lankan, rich or poor, can afford a daily glass of red wine.
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