Monday, July 27, 2009

wine and women

Someone famously once said "Who loves not wine, women and song remains a fool his whole life long." So in our count of 101 healthy reasons to drink wine, leading up to the release of the second edition of Age Gets Better with Wine, we turn our attention to wine and women.
66. According to a recent study from the University of Florence, Italy, women who drink wine have better sexual health than nondrinkers or mixed beverage drinkers. Using a study tool known as the Female Sexual Function Index, they studied more than 700 women from Tuscany. (Women consuming more than 2 glasses a day were excluded due to the possible confounding effect of alcohol on libido.) Women who drank wine had the highest overall scores on this comprehensive test of sexual health. No surprise there if you ask me, but these things have to be proven I suppose.
67. Postmenopausal women who have a high flavonoid intake (these are the polyphenol compounds from red wine and some vegetables) have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. While this may seem obvious, given all that is known about heart health and wine, the problem had not been previously addressed specifically for postmenopausal women in much detail.
68. Some wine-derived compounds have estrogen-like properties. (Plant-derived chemicals with estrogenic effects are called phytoestrogens, a familiar one being soy.) The trick is to mimic the favorable actions of estrogen in post-menopausal women (lower osteoporosis, heart disease, healthier skin, etc) while minimizing the adverse effects (possible increased risk of breast cancer.) Such compounds are called selective estrogen receptor modulators, or SERMS. One recent study found that wine-derived phyoestrogens activated longevity genes. The fact that estrogens have this capability may explain why women live longer than men on average.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Is wine good for the liver?

65. While it is common knowledge that alcohol abuse leads to cirrhosis of the liver, this next item on our count up to 101 healthy reasons to drink wine reveals that in the right amounts wine is actually a good thing for liver health. A condition know as "Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease" or NAFLD is becoming more prevalent and is one of a spectrum of conditions that may lead to cirrhosis. Doctors used to assume that NAFLD patients were simply concealing their heavy drinking. It turns out that the incidence of NAFLD is lowest among wine drinkers, being equal in nondrinkers and spirits drinkers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

wine and diabetes

We resume the count up to 101 healthy reasons to drink wine, to launch the second edition of Age Gets Better with Wine due out August 17 from the Wine Appreciation Guild.
60. Resveratrol from wine has insulin-like effects, according to a study from Taiwan. In a study of diabetic lab rats, they found that resveratrol was effective at lowering blood sugar and fats such as triglycerides. Further, it delayed the onset of insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
61. Resveratrol slows memory loss associated with diabetes, at least in lab rats. The infamous maze test of memory was used, with better retention among the rats given resveratrol.
62. Another manifestation of diabetes is called peripheral neuropathy, in which the nerves lose function. This results in loss of sensation and other problems. Resveratrol appears to offer some protection against diabetic neuropathy, at least in a lab model. (Like the actions listed above, this has not been tested or proven in humans using resveratrol supplements.)
63. One of the most serious complications of diabetes is stiffening of the arteries, leading to imparied circulation. Resveratrol, in a lab experiment, helped maintain supple arteries in diabetic animal subjects.
64. Perhaps most serious of all the conditions related to diabetes is loss of contractile function of heart muscle cells. Of course the reason I bring this up is because, again in a lab animal model, resveratrol slows this weakening of the heart.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wine, Carole King, and a good cause

As many of you know, I am on the board for the Washington Wines Festival, which just concluded our annual fundtaising event for Camp Korey, the local affiliate of Paul Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camps for kids with serious medical issues. Without a doubt, the highlight was the Saturday evening concert by the gracious and unbelievably talented Carole King. Her 1971 album "Tapestry" was the best selling ablum by a solo artist until Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Great wines, wonderful food by top chefs, all for a meaningful cause. wine really does bring people together.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A nice figure: More reasons to drink red wine

57. To test the role of wine in weight control, researchers in Spain studied a group of lab rats on a high-fat, high-calorie diet. Half of the animals were given red wine in addition, which prevented weight gain over an 8-week period. In fact, they were similar to a control group on a normal diet. Cheers to that.
58. A study of men and women in Paris evaluated the role of alcohol and obesity. Wine drinkers were found to have a J-shaped curve, meaning that when consumed in moderation wine is associated with more normal weight. Got wine?
59. Back to Spain for a report on a weight loss diet called the "Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean Diet." This was a non-calorically restricted regimen consisting of virgin olive oil as the principal source of fat, moderate red wine intake, green vegetables and salads as the main source of carbohydrates and fish as the main source of proteins. Participants acheived not only a significant reduction in weight but also improvement in their cholesterol and triglycerides.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Three more reasons to drink wine: counting down to 101.

54. Resveratrol from wine suppresses age-related decline in physical performance, at least in mice. Using a mouse prone to rapid aging, scientists have discovered that the loss of muscle mass and related diminishing of physical abilities can be countered by resveratrol and exercise. So yes you still need to exercise, but this fits neatly with other data regarding resveratrol and athletic performance.
55. Resveratrol at concentrations attainable through healthy wine drinking, increases the level of a blood vessel-relaxing molecule called NO (nitric oxide). This in turn helps lower blood pressure and prevent cardiovascular disease.
56. Resveratrol helps burn fat. We will get into the specifics of this later, but one of the more important findings about resveratrol is that it triggers the activation of prolongevity genes called sirtuins. These are normally turned on by caloric restriction, or near-starvation. One of the effects is release of fat from fat cells, which can also be acheived with resveratrol.