THE BENEFITS OF WINE AND SPIRITS

Wine is the sacred drink with penicillin power. "I am the true vine," said Jesus, whose first miracle was changing water into wine. Throughout the Bible, we see examples of wine used as an antiseptic, to induce sleep, improve digestion and appetite, strengthen the heartbeat and relieve angina pain. We know now that polyphenols in wine kill bacteria - and kill viruses that penicillin can't touch.

Over the last decade, dozens of studies from around the world have demonstrated that moderate wine consumption can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle for those adults who choose to drink. Wine, beer or spirits consumed in moderation have been shown to appreciably reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease and other common diseases that can reduce life expectancy. Several wine-specific studies have identified the importance of certain compounds in wine, researchers believe, may contribute to potential benefits over and above ethyl alcohol.

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Recent studies have shown how wine helps fight cancer. Wine contains a substance called resveratrol, which helps suppress cancer since it inhibits certain enzymes that can stimulate cancer-cell growth. The red grapes that go into red wine also contain bioflavonoids, powerful antioxidants that help prevent cancer tumors from forming to begin with. Wine is also a stress fighter, helping cancer patients by enabling them to relax and thus better combat their disease.
Data from the Cancer Prevention study published in 1997 in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that "overall death rates were lowest among men and women who reported having one drink daily."

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The first large-scale study on mainland, China, examining 18,000 middle-aged Chinese men, found in 1997 that "death rates among moderate drinkers were lower for cancer and non-cancer causes."

Recent scientific studies have pointed to potential health effects of moderate wine and alcohol consumption that extend beyond a reduction in heart disease risk. Studies continue to show results that associate moderate consumption with potentially favorable health effects.

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Studies from Harvard University showed that wine consumption was associated with a 59 percent reduced risk of kidney stones in women - the strongest inverse association found among beverages tested.

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Data published in 1998 by the American Geriatrics Society showed that wine consumption may reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for those over 65.

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Studies at the University of Bordeaux's Faculty of Pharmacy have shown that polyphenols (the antioxidants found in grapeseed) can reduce the rate of oxidation in the surface layers of the skin by 85 per cent. At the same time, the polyphenols have been shown to boost the microcirculation in the skin while protecting the all-important collage and elastin fibres that keep skin firm. The polyphenols have been discovered to be much more powerful than vitamins E and C, the traditional antioxidants in skincare, at combating the harmful effects of free radicals. And now it is also believed that these antioxidants could protect our skin from fine lines and wrinkles.

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American and British studies showed in 1995 that "moderate alcohol consumption among healthy people may be associated with reduced risk of diabetes."

Moreover, researchers have pointed out that the customary consumption of wine with meals may be particularly beneficial. Drinking with meals, according to some studies, may enable both the alcohol and the phenolic compounds in wine to counter adverse effects of fatty foods during the critical digestive phase. Other studies have pointed out that the healthful lifestyle traits reported for wine consumers may contribute to advantages in health and longevity.

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Swiss researchers reported in 1998 that alcohol consumed during a meal might help reduce the proliferation of smooth muscle cells within the arteries, which is common in atherosclerosis. They noted "ethanol may reduce cardiovascular risk by modulating vascular muscle cell growth during the postprandial period [after a meal]."

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Dutch scientists published a report in 1994 in the British Medical Journal, which found that alcohol consumed with a meal may prevent blood clotting triggered by fat. "Moderate alcohol consumption with dinner affects plasminogen activator inhibitor activity," they write. "The effects observed in the early morning are consistent with a decrease in risk of coronary heart disease in moderate drinkers."


GRAPES AND GOOD HEALTH

Grapeseed extract has become one of the leading natural remedies in Europe. It is no coincidence that the active ingredients in grapeseed extract, the OPC antioxidants, are also found in one of the drugs prescribed for blood vessel disorders, because OPC's have a direct effect on the health of blood vessels.

It is also thought that grapeseed extract strengthens fragile capillaries and increase blood flow, which means that it might play a role in helping ease the symptoms of diabetes, varicose veins and cramps. One study has shown that taking 300mg of grapeseed extract every day can reduce eyestrain, perhaps because if affects even the tiniest blood vessels that circulate around the eyes.

A preliminary study at the University Health Science Center in Syracuse, New York, found that adding two tablespoons of grapeseed oil to your daily diet increased good HDL cholesterol by 14 per cent while reducing triglycerides, or fats in the blood, by 15 per cent in just four weeks. Which means that in the future it could used to help prevent cholesterol-related heart problems.