Wine expert Subhash Arora returns from the just-concluded Wine and Heart Health Summit in California with some startling finds That a little wine may not be a bad thing is common knowledge. But the good news for new-wine countries, India included, is that research reveals that young reds are more health-giving than rich vintages. This was one of the startling findings disclosed at last month's Wine and Heart Health Summit in Napa Valley, California. Dr Roger Boulton, Professor of Enology at the University of California, pointed out that red wine grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon require plenty of ageing leading to a drastic fall in the level of polyphenols, the anti-ageing element in wines. So, sipping the young Indian reds may not be a bad option-especially if you want to keep those laugh lines at bay.
But for those who like their French sips, here are some tips on choice of vintage: studies done so far indicate that the best (health-giving) results are achieved from imbibing Chateau-Neuf-du-Pape, Bordeaux, Barolo, Burgundy and Valpolicella wines. Cardiology professor Dr John Deanfield from the University of London provided a fresh perspective. The good professor recommends moderate drinking of wine as, "investing in your arteries just like your retirement pension plan".
Another radical find came from Dr R. Curtis Ellison, Director, Institute of Lifestyle & Health, Boston University. His research indicates that alcohol, when consumed regularly and in moderation, is the only lifestyle factor increasing the HDL cholesterol ('good' cholesterol) level by 10-20 percent. 'Regular' is the keyword because the effect of increasing HDL lasts only up to 48 hours. Wine also acts as a blood thinner, points out the doctor-all the more reason to reach for a glassful every evening. Naturally, the advice comes with a cautionary note against overdoing the 'health routine'!
Also, the fact is that there is a proven link between wine (and alcohol) and breast cancer. With women having taken to drinking a lot of alcohol, this point came up frequently. Although Dr Ellison's study did not throw up significant finds on the relationship between alcohol and cancer, most other studies point to a six percent or even higher risk with even moderate alcohol drinking-amounting to a glassful per day for women. He goes on to say that the risk level is similar to that faced by a woman undergoing HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy). The benefits of the glassful far outweigh the risks, he feels.
The good news is that if enough folates (a derivative of folic acid) are taken alongside, the negative effects are totally neutralised. So why miss the pleasure of a glass of wine or beer? Folate-rich foods include leafy greens, fruits, whole grain cereals or folate pills with vitamin B12. The summit was attended by over a hundred doctors and several researchers, wine connoisseurs, important opinion-makers, and a growing breed of doctors who have combined pleasure with business and set up their own wineries.
The summit also threw up other interesting aspects, including the co-relation between pregnancy and alcohol intake. Although there has been no evidence so far to suggest that moderate alcohol drinking is harmful to the pregnant mother, no doctor at the conference was willing to make any statement. In private, though, there seemed to be consensus that an occasional glass of wine is not harmful. This seems to be consistent ith the latest guidelines issued by the Danish National Board of Health which advised up to the occasional drink (definitely not every day) for expectant mothers.
Wine and its positive effects have been a topic of discussion down the ages. Way back in the early 19th century Louis Pasteur had declared: "wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages".
Most people are familiar with the health benefits of wine and the French Paradox-the term was coined on Sunday, November 12, 1991, on 60 Minutes, a TV programme by CBS and viewed by over 20 million Americans. Evidence was produced by Dr Serge Renaud, Research Director, Segalen University in Bordeaux that the French who eat a lot more fat than the Americans, smoke more cigarettes and barely exercise, have only one-third the incidence of cardiac heart disease (CHD)-thanks to their habit of regular, moderate wine drinking with food (see following article: 'French Dip'). Importance of this finding has had universal repercussions. Positive effects of wine and alcohol in moderate quantities have been confirmed in over a hundred studies since then. The Napa summit is a follow-up to the International Wine and Heart Health Summit organised in 2001 by the Desert Heart Foundation, Arizona. The issues focussed upon at Napa included the Biology of Wine, Linking Wine to Cardiovascular Health.
Cardiologist Dr Klatsky who published an article as early as 1974 that reported an inverse relationship between alcohol drinking and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD), carried his point further at Napa and declared that "abstinence can be hazardous to some person's health". His group at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Oakland analysed the different studies done on a total of 1.3 lakh patients between 1978 and 1985, and their status in 1998 and concluded that those who had one or two alcoholic drinks a day had 32 percent less risk of dying of CHD than non-drinkers. Dr Serge Reynaud while corroborating these findings, added an extra dimension-his research indicated that a moderate intake of beer, too, lowered the risk from CHD.
Australian cardiologist Dr Justin Ardell was passionate about his belief in red wine and its beneficial effect on the heart. The 40-year-old doctor and wine connoisseur owns a 24-acre vineyard in Clare Valley, adjoining the famous Barossa Valley-talk about taking ones belief to heart! His boutique winery, Reilly Wines, makes 7,000 cases annually of excellent red wine and some Riesling every year. The 1999 Shiraz he presented at the physician winemakers' tasting was one of the most popular wines. Incidentally, his three-year-old daughter, Jaclin, can not only tell the difference between his Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon, but actually prefers Shiraz! His other passion is believe it or not, cricket. And yes, he is a fan of Tendulkar.