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A Body of Wine Research

A visual guide to wine's potential impact on your body
Posted: May 31, 2009

Men who consume one to two glasses of red wine a day have a 40 percent lower risk of suffering an ischemic stroke, according to a 2003 Harvard study. Scientists have also found that grape seed polyphenols block and neutralize the toxic plaques that build up and kill cells in the brains of Alzheimer's patients. And one research team recently announced that a combination of wine, dark chocolate and tea, in moderate amounts, enhances cognitive performance in the elderly.

Moderate red-wine drinkers run roughly half the risk of developing cataracts as nondrinkers, according to a 2005 study in Iceland. And a 1998 survey in the United States found that wine drinkers are less likely to suffer from age-related macular degeneration.

A Kaiser Permanente study published in March found that people who consume between seven and 14 glasses of wine a week have a 56 percent lower risk of Barrett's Esophagus, a condition caused by chronic heartburn and often a precursor to esophageal cancer.

Two decades of research strongly suggests that alcohol, and red wine in particular, can reduce the risk of atherosclerosis and heart attacks by as much as 60 percent. In 2007, a Harvard team found that men with hypertension can lower their risk of a heart attack by 30 percent by drinking a glass or two a day.

Few areas of wine and health research are more contentious. Several studies have shown that alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer, but studies differ on whether one glass of red wine a day represents risk. And a 2008 study found that resveratrol suppresses the metabolism of estrogen, protecting cells from becoming cancerous.

California researchers announced last year that men who drink red wine have a lower risk of lung cancer compared with nondrinkers. Nonsmoking men who drank a glass or two per day were 4 percent less likely to get lung cancer than nondrinkers; smokers who drank this amount also had a lower risk, although still much higher than nonsmokers'.

Israeli researchers found that red wine helps the stomach remove potentially harmful substances found in red meats, aiding digestion and lowering the risk of atherosclerosis, type 2 diabetes and colon cancer.

Alcohol abuse can have a devastating impact on the liver, but a 2008 study found that a daily glass of wine decreases the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Another study found that alcohol and resveratrol reduced the amount of fat produced in the livers of mice fed dangerous levels of alcohol and appeared to help livers break down existing fat.

Spanish researchers found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet, which includes moderate wine-consumption, helps reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 83 percent. The diet, rich in olive oil, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and fish, and low in meat and dairy products, also appears to help type 2 diabetes patients better regulate their metabolism.

A study from the University of California, Davis, last year found that anthocyanins extracted from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes aided digestion in pigs and could possibly prevent colon cancer in humans. A 2006 Stony Brook University study found that white-wine drinkers had a 12 percent lower risk of colon cancer, while red-wine drinkers had a 68 percent lower risk.

Women who drink a glass or two of wine daily show about half the risk of developing ovarian cancer compared with nondrinkers or women who drink beer or spirits, according to an Australian study.

Peripheral artery disease is a form of atherosclerosis that cuts off the blood supply to the legs. A Dutch study at the Erasmus University Medical Center of people aged 55 or older found that one or two alcoholic drinks a day lowered the risk of this disease.

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