The end of 1998 brought some good tidings for wine lovers. Several new medical studies released in December add to the growing body of evidence that drinking wine can be part of a healthy lifestyle:
Wine may protect against strokes far better than beer or spirits, according to Danish researchers. The December issue of "Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association" reported on a 16-year study (part of the Copenhagen City Heart Study) of more than 13,000 people. Those who said they drank wine on a weekly basis (about one to six glasses per week) had a 34 percent lower risk of stroke than those who never or hardly ever drank wine. Those who said they drank wine daily had a 32 percent reduction in risk. However, no significant reduction in risk was found among those who drank beer or spirits.
"Beer, wine and spirits may have different effects on the risk of cardiovascular disease, indicating that compounds other than ethanol may be of importance," stated the study's lead author, Dr. Thomas Truelsen of the Institute of Preventive Medicine in Copenhagen. The researchers believe that wine's flavonoids and tannins may inhibit the development of atherosclerosis, the build-up of plaque in the arteries. "On the other hand, it has been suggested that the beneficial effect of wine consumption is merely related to drinking patterns," added Truelsen. "Wine may be consumed with meals to a greater extent than beer and spirits; the latter two may be consumed irregularly throughout the day. These differences in 'timing' may be important."
People who drink wine also tend to choose foods that are healthier for the heart, according to a recent study of diet and drinking patterns published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study of 48,763 Danish men and women, done by the Danish Cancer Society, Institute of Cancer Epidemiology, found that moderate wine drinkers (one to three glasses per day) consumed the most "heart-healthy" diet. A healthy diet was defined as a high intake of fruit, vegetables and fish; reduced intake of saturated fat; and the use of olive oil in cooking.
"The important message in our study is that there is a strong association between the intake of wine and healthy food habits," said Dr. Anne Tjonneland, lead author of the study. "Studies showing wine drinkers to have a lower incidence of ischemic heart disease may be attributable not only to the wine itself, but to their other dietary choices."
In good news for candy lovers, chocolate and wine may share similar health benefits. In a five-year study of 7,841 male Harvard graduates who were 65 and older, chocolate and candy eaters lived almost a year longer than those who abstained. The results, published in the British Medical Journal, indicated that those who ate a "moderate" amount of candy (one to three candy bars a month) fared the best, with a 36 percent lower risk of death compared to non-candy eaters. Even those who indulged in three or more sweets a week lived longer, with a 16 percent lower risk of death.
The researchers, from Harvard University's School of Public Health, stressed that the results are preliminary, though they speculated that the antioxidants in chocolate may be responsible for the benefits. According to the article: "A 41g piece of chocolate contains about the same amount of phenol as a glass of red wine, and alcohol consumption, in moderation, lowers the risk of coronary heart disease."
Recent reports on wine and health: