Saturday, November 6, 2010

Red Wine and Health

Festive Fitness Challenge Day 6. I think our bodies are done going through sugar withdrawal after Halloween! Sticking to whole grains has not been hard. I have made a couple of throw together chicken and quinoa salads; the recipes are not worth posting at this point. In addition, I have made buckwheat and steal cut oats for breakfast. Yum.

Totally switching gears, a couple of weeks ago someone asked me about the benefits of red wine. The question was, "are these benefits just confined to red wine or can other types of alcohol be beneficial to your health?". So here is what I have found.


Up to this point researchers have claimed that red wine has the following health benefits: 
1.) Antioxidant
2.) Anti-inflammatory
4.) Tumor Supression and decrease in Colon cancer

The Latest:
1.) Antioxidant Properties: 
Ethanol: The main compent in all alchols, wine or other, actually increases oxidation in our bodies. Oxidation leads to an increase in free radicals which can damage our blood vessels and increase our risk of cardiovascular disease.

Why is wine different? Red wine in particular, contains polyphenols which have antioxidant properties.
Because alcohol increases the amount of oxidative stress the question becomes, does red wine have anti-oxidant properties above and beyond those that will reverse the oxidation they cause themselves?
The answer to this is not certain. Studies suggest that there are too many confounding variables to be certain. For example, people who drink red wine tend to have healthier diets and exercise more.

2.) Anti-inflammatory:
Ethanol increases the amount of HDL, good cholesterol. If too much alcohol is consumed in one sitting there is a decrease in HDL. In addition, ethanol will decrease oxidation of LDL; however, this will occur more for some ethnic groups more than others.  Ethanol has also been found to reduce other markers of inflammation and decrease clot formation.

3.) Tumor suppression and decrease in colon cancer:
This benefit is from red wine only. The polyphenols, in particular, resveratrol have been studied in the role of cancer suppression and prevention. Red wine has been shown to block carcinogens and inhibit the growth of tumours. This role however, cannot be contributed to the alcohol, but to the grape skins themselves.

So now that we are thoroughly confused about the health benefits vs health decrements of alcohol, lets summarize. Ethanol, independent of red wine, does have some anti-inflammatory properties that decrease risk of cardiovascular disease. Red wine on the other hand, may also have antioxidant and anti-carcinogenic properties.

So now the real question becomes how much should one drink? There is a J shaped relationship between alcohol consumption and decrements to ones health. This means if you drink more than what is recommended you decrease the health benefits of the alcohol. When one is intoxicated their body is actually in a toxic state. In particular, your liver cannot break down the alcohol as fast as you are ingesting it. In general, men should consume no more than two glasses of alcohol a day and women no more than one glass. In addition, one glass is equivalent to one shot, one beer or one 150mL glass of wine.  If too much alcohol is consumed you get an increase in blood pressure and inflammation in the body. An increase to just three drinks a day is associated with significant increase in adverese health effects: increased blood triglycerides, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. So if you currently don't consume alcohol or red wine should you start? I would say scientific evidence does not go that far. My best advice is to keep a healthy diet, active lifestyle and decrease your stress in a healthy way.


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