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Video: Is wine good for you?

By
TODAY contributor
updated 6/4/2008 5:26:48 PM ET 2008-06-04T21:26:48

Is wine good for you?In moderation and as part of an overall healthy diet, the short answer is yes!

Thanks to its alcohol content and non-alcoholic phytochemicals (natural occurring plant compounds), wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

However, the amount of wine you drink matters tremendously. Drink more than what’s recommended, your health benefits are lost and your health risks go up.

Here’s what’s considered safe and effective:

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Men: No more than two drinks per day.

Women: No more than one drink per day.

One drink is defined as a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine, 12 ounces of regular beer (1 bottle) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

The health benefits of wine
When it comes to wine’s health capabilities, here’s what we know:

It’s been well documented that moderate amounts of alcohol can raise your good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol) and thin your blood. This is thought to be one of the primary cardiovascular benefits from wine (red and white), as well as hard liquor and beer.

Non-alcoholic phytochemicals in wine, such as flavanoids and resveratrol, act as antioxidants and prevent molecules known as “free radicals” from causing cellular damage in the body.  Although some studies which have focused on the health benefits of resveratrol use much greater dosages than you’ll find in an average glass of wine, resveratrol has been shown to prevent blood clotting and plaque formation in arteries by altering lipid profiles and plasma viscosity.  Findings from a recent study suggest that resveratrol can produce potent anti-thrombotic agents that can potentially improve cardiovascular health and lower the risk for coronary heart disease.  In animal studies, resveratrol reduced tumor incidence by affecting one or more stages of cancer development.

Red wine provides much more resveratrol compared to white. That’s because the longer the skin is kept on the grape during the wine making process, the greater the concentration of resveratrol in the wine. In the case of white wine production, the skin is removed before fermentation, giving white wines a lower concentration in resveratrol compared to red wines. Also, wines made in cooler climates have greater amounts of resveratrol too. Thus, red wine from cool climates have the most resveratrol.

The negative side of wine
Wine, however, is not for everyone. Certain medical conditions are worsened by the consumption of wine, so it’s vital you seek the advice of your personal physician. Here’s a few things to know:

  • High Triglycerides: One downside to wine consumption is that it can elevate triglyceride levels, which is associated with health problems such as diabetes.  Those who already have high triglycerides should, therefore, avoid or dramatically limit their wine (and alcohol) consumption.
  • Breast Cancer Risk: Studies have shown alcohol can increase estrogen levels and raise tumor progression in women with (or at high risk for) estrogen positive breast cancer.
  • Migraines: Wine is often a big trigger for people who suffer with migraine headaches. Although white wine contains more sulfites than red wine (sulfites are added to white wine to preserve its light color), red wine seems to be a much bigger migraine trigger. That’s probably due to the accumulation of histamines and tannins from prolonged contact with the skin.
  • Weight Gain: People who drink alcohol also consume empty calories, calories that lack nutrients and can lead to weight gain.
  • Five ounces white or red wine = approximately 120 calories.  Drink a bottle of wine (4 glasses), and you’ll be consuming about 480 calories (that’s the equivalent of two 20-ounce Cokes!).
  • Here’s how alcohol compares to carbohydrate/protein/fat:
    1 gram carb = 4 calories
    1 gram protein = 4 calories
    1 gram fat = 9 calories
    1 gram alcohol = 7 calories

Joy Bauer is the author of “Food Cures.”  For more information on healthy eating, check out Joy’s Web site at www.joybauernutrition.com

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