Three years ago a hospital in England became the first in Europe to prescribe red wine to its patients. Speaking on BBC radio, Hugh Johnson, a world-renowned wine writer said, "It's very positive news that a hospital is taking this holistic view."
MY reaction to the hospital prescribing red wine at dinner was "HURRAY," however, the medical and consumer press in the US barely covered this step forward in health care. Why? Many doctors in this country as well as the media avoid mentioning the benefits of drinking red wine in moderation because there is a medical and religious conservatism in this country that views alcohol as a "forbidden fruit" -- drinking red wine of any amount will trigger alcohol abuse.
I think we should look at all of the facts together, because there are a mounting number of medical studies that can't be ignored, pointing to the protective benefits of moderate red wine consumption.
We've come a LONG way since the health benefits of drinking red wine were first revealed in 1991 by "60 Minutes." Since then many clinical studies, with tens of thousands of patients who have been followed over these many years, have shown that red wine, enjoyed in moderation, lowers the risk of many diseases.
HEART DISEASE is top of the list because it's the number one killer in the US. Clinical studies have proven that, in moderation, men can lower the risk of heart disease by 50% by drinking two glasses of red wine a day. And women can reduce their risk by almost 30 percent, by drinking one glass of red wine a day.
What does red wine contain that makes it so heart-healthy? Red grape skins, seeds and stems all contain high concentrations of compounds called polyphenols - more commonly known as antioxidants.
CANCER is next on the list. The same antioxidants have now been found to attack destructive "free-radicals" which are harmful, naturally- occurring products that do cellular damage. Research studies now show, drinking wine in moderation will help prevent certain types of cancer such as prostate, colon and skin cancer.
And the roll-call of health benefits continues.
CATARACTS - In the spring of 2005, researchers in Japan and Iceland contended that moderate red wine consumption reduces the development of retinal cataracts by 50 percent.
KIDNEY PROBLEMS - In May of 2005, Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital announced the results of a 14 year study on 11,000 middle aged male subjects and concluded that "there is an inverse relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and the risk of renal dysfunction."
FLU - In the fall of 2005, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy announced that moderate red wine consumption could ward off the flu. This is because one specific antioxidant, resveratrol, "seems to block host-cell functions that are essential for viral replication."
ARTHRITIS - In March of 2006, the American College of Rheumatology found that the antioxidant resveratrol could reduce the pain of arthritis by thwarting the activation of the gene Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2), which is suspected of creating the inflammation that causes arthritis pain.
ALZHEIMER'S - Late-breaking news, in October, 2006, New York's Mt. Sinai School of Medicine announced that laboratory mice had their drinking water spiked with Cabernet Sauvignon from California for seven months with an equivalent of one glass a day. It slowed down the rate at which something called an amyloid precursor protein hardens into plaque, which is characteristic of a brain suffering from Alzheimer's.
Bottom Line - I've concluded that most healthy people who drink red wine regularly and moderately live longer. Even if wine shouldn't be viewed as a medicine, there is a HUGE amount of evidence that leads one to conclude wine is an important ingredient to a healthy and happy lifestyle.
Therefore, join me in toasting the many health benefits of red wine and say, "To a healthy pleasure!"
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