What’s good for you in red wine

I’ve heard two podcasts that contradict each other somewhat as far as what it is in red wine that’s good for you.

According to this Scientific American interview with Charles Bamforth it’s really the alcohol in wine that’s good for your arteries and so you might as well drink beer, and that in fact beer has some health advantages over red wine. Bamforth is the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Brewing Science at U.C. Davis. (Hmm …)

But according to the November 30, 2006 podcast from Nature, the procyanidins in red wine are particularly good for your arteries. While there may be health benefits from alcohol in general, red wine has unique benefits, especially red wines from certain regions.

Red wine contains the anti-oxidant resveratrol which has received a lot of press. Another Nature podcast (November 2, 2006) reports research that indicates resveratrol has increased life spans in experiments with yeast, flies, worms, and mice, and there is reason to believe it might do the same in humans. However, the amount of resveratrol in red wine is insignificant: you’d have to drink hundreds of gallons of wine a day to get a beneficial dose of resveratrol.

Unlike resveratrol, there are enough procyanidins in a glass of red wine to make a difference. This has been tested by extracting the procyanidins and testing it on cultured endothelial cells. Also, people live longer in the regions that produce wines especially high in procyanidins, namely Sardinia and southwestern France. Here’s the Nature article reporting the research.

It seems that it may not be the soil in certain areas but rather the wine making traditions that increase the procyanidin levels. Vintners in these areas leave the crushed grape seeds in with the juice longer.

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4 thoughts on “What’s good for you in red wine

  1. John,

    I think Aristotle may have given us the correct answer to this conundrum of dueling podcasts: “seek moderation in all things”.

    I also think perhaps for all of our hypotheses and liquid chromatography and mass spectrometers and carefully measured results, we can’t really isolate all the variables for the complex problem of how arteries clog and how to prevent it. There’s too much opinion reflected in the “facts” these studies present. There’s also a fundamental acceptance that everyone has the same body chemistry and therefore one size fits all with the solution.

  2. Jerzy: It’s disturbing that someone could get away with that. Still, the article says “the cardiovascular benefits of resveratrol have also been established in other researchers’ work.” This confirmation is key.

    Science needs to be reproduced to be credible. Not just to guard against fraud, but more importantly, to keep from being fooled by coincidence, sloppy technique, cognitive bias, statistical ineptitude, etc. There are many reasons an honest scientist could be wrong, and they’re much more common than fraud.

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