We are asked about alcohol and health constantly. One study says that one to two glasses of red wine a day is good for you; another says it’s one to two glasses a week; another says that all alcohol is bad for you full stop. What’s the Truth?
The French Paradox which, along with the Mediterranean Diet, is a contributor to the Rainbow Diet offers that alcohol is no bad thing. The French Paradox? The French eat more fat and consume more alcohol than almost any other nation, but have one of the lowest rates of cancer and heart disease. Within France the area south of Toulouse, Gascony, the birthplace of D’Artagnan, in research was shown to be where the French have the highest levels of alcohol and fat consumption yet the lowest levels of heart disease and cancer. Go there and you will see why. Red wine (for example Madiran) and good oils (extra virgin olive oil, walnuts and almonds), fruit and vegetables protect and correct.
High alcohol consumption definitely puts the body at risk, the most obvious diseases being cancer and liver related. Certainly people who have impaired livers should be overly cautious of alcohol. And women should note that their consumption should be roughly half that of men, due to body and liver relative volumes.
‘Good alcohol’, if there is such a concept, would seem to start and end with red wine. Red wine is made with the wine fermenting on both the skins and the grape seeds. Grape seeds provide powerful antioxidant properties, and in the VITAL study, grape seed extract beat the nearest high street antioxidant by 42 per cent in its abilities.
Red grape skins are known to contain resveratrol, although the more they are sprayed, the less they contain, as it is produced as the grape’s natural protection to fungal attack. Resveratrol has been shown by oncology experts like Professor Gerry Potter, in his work on Salvestrols, to be a pro-drug. Once inside a cancer cell, it is converted by the CYP1B1 gene into picetannol, which promptly kills the cancer cell.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol and has been shown to have all manner of properties in research. It improves bone health, reduces type-2 diabetes risk, has positive effects on the brain and lowers cholesterol, macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s risk. Resveratrol also replicates the effects of calorie restriction in the body and stimulates the production of sirtuins, which has been linked to increased longevity.
Critics argue that you don’t get much resveratrol from a bottle of red wine, but in the Mediterranean diet the issue is more likely to be long-term build up.
One Harvard study commented that people who lived on the North shores of the Mediterranean, consumed on average 4 glasses a day, but in my experience, the glasses are most usually a third of the size of those used in a UK or American bar!
Certainly most researchers talk of the importance of consuming ‘modest amounts’ of red wine most days.
In www.chriswoollamshealthwatch.com we have covered research showing that red wine reduces ‘bad cholestrol’, LDL, in the body and another study showing that red wine is actually ‘liked’ by beneficial gut bacteria. Their numbers increase and thus the immune system strengthens.
A Harvard study in Cell Metabolism in 2012 showed that red wine increased anti-ageing benefits, even in the presence of high fat diets. A study in BJM showed regular wine consumption was linked to less depression and greater mental health.
Two studies on cancer resulted in a surprising finding. Moderate red wine consumption seems to reduce oestrogen levels and is associated with less colorectal cancer (University of Leicester) and less breast cancer (Cedars- Sinai Medical Centre, LA).
Moreover, there are three studies from different parts of the world showing that commensal gut bacteria like a glass of red wine. A glass of Merlot increases their numbers and boosts the immune study.
On the other hand, drink too much and you will change the pH of your gut stopping the growth of your commensal gut bacteria.
So maybe that’s the Truth about health and alcohol. A few glasses of red wine won’t harm you and will bring health benefits backed by research. Drink too much, especially alcohol that is not red grape based, and you are probably asking for trouble.