Are There Health Benefits to Wine Essay

This essay has a total of 2343 words and 10 pages.

Are There Health Benefits to Wine



INTRODUCTION
More than 100,000 deaths per year are attributed to alcohol, in the United States.
Alcohol-related auto accidents account for approximately 24,000 of these deaths (most
often the victims are under 30 years of age), while alcohol-related homicide account for
11,000 and suicide 8,000 deaths. Certain types of cancer, which are partly associated
with the consumption of alcohol, contribute to another 17,000 deaths. Alcohol-related
strokes are responsible for 9,000 deaths. 25,000 lost lives are due to 12 alcohol-related
diseases including cirrhosis of the liver. All these deaths combined are the equivalent
of 200 jumbo jetliners crashing and taking the lives of everyone onboard, in just one
year.

Such numbers are staggering until you realize that it is Coronary Heart Disease that is
the number one killer in the United States, not alcohol. There are roughly 900,000
persons admitted to U.S. hospitals for strokes annually and 830,00 admitted for Congestive
Heart Failure. Though they are not always fatal, these diseases will leave its victims at
varying levels of incapacitation. Looking at specific age groups, cardiovascular disease
is the #1 killer of those age 65 and #2 killer of those age 25 – 64

This is a political issue for the U.S. with so many lives lost to alcohol-related disease
and accidents. Leaders will not be perceived favorably by designating research money to
study the health benefits of a drug responsible for damaging so many lives. I believe it
is this political climate which limits research in this area, and I believe it is this
climate that limits the amount of coverage the media provides about its possible benefits.
As I began to research this subject I was intrigued by the vast number of articles and
studies on the health benefits of wine. The industry has submitted a number of press
releases attempting to counter the negative social stigma alcohol had developed circa 1992
- 98. These articles aside, I found reputable sources, with published reports, from such
respected names as Harvard, UC Davis, Georgetown, and the Mayo Clinic. Several of these
studies have been published in the American Medical Journal, and the New England Journal
of Medicine.

I found articles referring to the “French Paradox.” This is an occurrence where the
French diet contains equal levels of fat as the U.S. however the coronary disease related
mortality rate of France is 1/3 that of the U.S. diet. I believe we must investigate and
prove or disprove the assertion that wine is somehow involved. Either we are letting
hundreds of thousands of people die or become severely debilitated senselessly by not
taking advantage of wine’s possible benefits, or we are allowing an industry to spread
half-truths with the potential of hurting unsuspecting consumers. Mounting evidence
continues to suggest that when taken with a balanced diet, moderate amounts of wine can
reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, reduce the risk of heart disease,
reduce the risk of stroke, and thus lower mortality rates.

DEFINING THE PROBLEM
Are there health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of wine, which will reduce the mortality rate in humans?
HYPOTHESIS
Even though fat intake in France is similar to the American diet, the liberal consumption
of wine in France protects the French against coronary heart disease by lowering LDL
cholesterol and thereby lowering the risk of blockage, thus reducing mortality rates.

EVIDENCE
First, mounting evidence continues to suggest that when taken with a balanced diet,
moderate amounts of wine can reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream. The
human body manufactures approximately 80% of the cholesterol used and stored in its cells.
The remaining 20% is derived from eating animal products. Cholesterol is transported
through the body via the bloodstream. To allow this, the body attaches a protein to the
cholesterol. This combination is called a lipoprotein. The body requires high-density
lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (“good cholesterol”) to assist in the removal of low-density
lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol from the blood vessels. Failure to remove
excessive amounts of LDL cholesterol will result in a plaque buildup and blockage of the
body’s main arteries. Blockages may occur gradually or suddenly. Plaque can break off
and create a blood clot, with the consequences of a possible heart attack or stroke.

Doctors at the Mayo Clinic suggest a low-fat diet and exercise to lower and maintain the
correct balance of cholesterol. If the balance can not be achieved through diet and
exercise, drugs are now available to reduce levels of HDL cholesterol; drugs for this
treatment however are costly (up to $200 per month) and are associated with some risk of
liver damage. In a Mayo Clinic Dietician report the clinic sites a 1997 American Journal
of Cardiology report that alcohol provides the greatest benefit by raising high density
lipoprotein… and by decreasing the stickiness of blood, making it less likely to clot.”
The report continued by saying red wines contain the antioxidants: flavonoids and phenols,
which hinder plaque from forming. These antioxidants also possess an anti-clotting
quality. Wine contains approximately 200 different phenolic compounds, but only a handful
are considered antioxidants.

The antioxidant flavonoids are water-soluble plant pigments. First discovered by the
Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (who first discovered Vitamin C),
Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi found that flavonoids strengthened capillary walls even better than
Vitamin C. The main sources of flavonoids include fruit, tea, and soy. The report stated
that “the flavonoids in these foods protect against heart disease and cancer.” Dr Andrew
Waterhouse of the University of Davis, Department of Viticulture, and Enology says wine
“is one of the best sources of phenolic antioxidants available to Americans.” Davis
researchers believe wine to possess five times the phenolic levels of fresh grapes.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic as well as those at the University of California at Davis
did stress alcohol is a highly addictive drug, and may not be appropriate for all persons
(including children, adolescents and persons with addiction issues). If used however,
they believe wine should be used only in moderation. Because of differing opinions on its
benefits, the researchers did not suggest that any patient “start” drinking. Evidence is
mounting however that wine has the ability to lower LDL cholesterol, and reduces the
damaging affects of the “bad” cholesterol.

Next, mounting evidence continues to suggest that when taken with a balanced diet,
moderate amounts of wine can reduce the risk of heart disease, and thus lower mortality
rates. A CNN report by Hacsi Horvath said on the benefits of wine, “Several studies have
shown that drinking a glass or two with meals may indeed help to protect against heart
disease.” The report referred to what some call the “French Paradox” a phenomenon where
out of 21 affluent countries studied, France has the highest wine consumption rate, and
the second lowest cardiovascular disease mortality rate. Others have given credit for
this healthful success to the “Mediterranean Diet,” which includes:

 Low red meat
 Low lard or butter, higher olive oil
 High in fish
 High in cheese, low in whole milk
 High in breads, fruits, and vegetables
 Light to moderate wine drinking
Horvath says other studies have shown that wine drinkers may simply be more concerned
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