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Why Wine is Good for You

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THE LATEST SCIENTIFIC NEWS ON WINE PHENOLICS
Wine's healthful effects may be due to its polyphenols
- by Elisabeth Holmgren - Director, Research &- Education

(WineSense National Newsletter) - A British research team recently conducted a promising in vivo study, which found more evidence for the protective effects of phenolic compounds in red wine. Investigators from Cambridge, England discovered that red wine significantly reduced the rate of harmful oxidation of low-density lipoproteins (LDL) in 30 subjects, all healthy men between the ages of 35 to 65. Shailja Nigdikar, Alan Howard and colleagues wrote in a recent issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, "In our study, red wine consumption in volunteers increased plasma and LDL polyphenols and enhanced antioxidant activity."

The British team of researchers investigated the effects of red wine, red wine polyphenol capsules and red wine polyphenol powder dissolved in white wine, finding that all of these are polyphenol sources that result in significant antioxidant activity. Interestingly, red wine had a more pronounced effect on improved antioxidant activity than both red wine polyphenols in capsule form and red wine polyphenols dissolved in white wine. The study also found that after two weeks plasma polyphenols were elevated by 38 percent with red wine, 28 percent with red wine polyphenol capsules, 27 percent with red wine polyphenols dissolved in white wine (but not with white wine alone). No oxidative or anti-oxidative effects were observed with the control alcoholic drink (a drink containing 10 percent ethanol with no polyphenol content).

While the antioxidant properties of wine polyphenols have been demonstrated many times in vitro, in vivo (in human) evidence has been more controversial.

In the past, researchers have pointed out that it is unclear exactly how these results apply to humans. The present study - designed to investigate discrepancies of previous reports - confirms earlier findings of favorable in vivo effects and explains that "failure of some, authors to obtain antioxidant effects with the consumption of alcoholized red wine may be due to the differing techniques used in the measurement in lipid peroxidation." This new study clarifies differing past results on antioxidant effects and provides strong support for the protective effects of polyphenolic antioxidants on cardiovascular disease. The researchers write, "Red wine, but not white wine, has antioxidant activity when given to volunteers and this difference is most likely due to the content of wine polyphenols which are abundant in red wine but not in white wine."

In an American Journal of Clinical Nutrition editorial accompanying this study, University of California at Davis researchers emphasize the need for more research in this exciting area to follow up on these encouraging data representing a "fundamental advance in understanding the role of dietary phenolics." The British researchers conclude that, "in view of the potential benefits" more in vivo trials are needed in order to further the understanding of these complicated phenomena. Large-scale studies of men and women must be the next step, as we continue to learn more about the role of wine antioxidants in protecting against disease and increasing overall lifespan.

Additional studies in the area of wine antioxidants have been published in recent weeks. For example, research from the Italian National Institute of Nutrition in Rome found that the phenolic compounds in wine are absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract and "might be directly involved in the in vivo antioxidant defenses." These data, based on alcohol-free wine begin to answer the question that has long plagued investigators, which is: Are phenolic compounds the primary factor responsible for the protective effect of wine?

Additional research from the U.K. found that red wine polyphenols significantly reduce oxidation of human LDL, thereby potentially protecting against coronary artery disease. Finally, a team of researchers from New York, Japan and the University of Illinois have found encouraging evidence that resveratrol - a compound found primarily in grapes and wine - may inhibit cancer growth in humans.

As all these experimental studies are emerging, scientists from the world famous Copenhagen City Heart Study conclude in the September 26 British Medical Journal that a moderate intake of wine probably does not increase the risk of upper digestive tract cancer. Wine contains several components with possible anti-carcinogenic effect - these may exert their action locally in parallel with the possible effect of ethanol. It is hoped that future wine-specific research and in vivo studies on wine phenolics will further clarify these latest findings.

For more information on the WineSense National Newsletter, contact WOMEN FOR WINESENSE at www.womenforwinesense.org.