Drink (Wine) to Your Health!

By ACSH Staff — May 27, 2010

It s well-known that moderate wine consumption can help prevent heart disease. Now new evidence is emerging that shows surprising results on increased life expectancy related to long-term wine consumption, as well as decreased metabolic syndrome and dementia associated with Mediterranean-type diets, which usually include red wine.

The most spectacular result was offered by Streppel, et al, in the Zutphen Study from the Netherlands. They showed that men who drank wine lived an average of five years longer than men who didn t imbibe. This is a much larger difference than anticipated from the US NHANES study and from my rough calculation of two or three years based on inference from mortality data.

The Mediterranean Diet was described about a decade ago as healthier than the typical U.S. diet. It consists of increased amounts of fruits and vegetables and olive oil, with less meat and fatty dairy products, and moderate wine consumption. It was modified severely by the FDA ad the U.S. Department of Agriculture and promulgated as the Food Pyramid in public media and educational curricula. Unfortunately, these authorities left out wine, and emphasized large amounts of grain products, regardless of type and glycemic potential, as the base of a healthy diet.

Recently, Walter Willet and Meir Stampfer of the Harvard School of Public Health have tried to correct the Food Pyramid to more closely approach the Mediterranean Diet, with more heart-healthy lipids, less short-chain carbohydrates and alcohol in moderation, as well as exercise and weight control.

More surprised came from two studies in the British Medical Journal last year. Trichopoulou, et al found that the relative importance of components of the Mediterranean Diet were moderate ethanol, 24 percent; decreased meat consumption, 17 percent; high vegetable intake, 16 percent; fruits and nuts, 11 percent; mono-unsaturated lipids replacing saturated, 11 percent; and legumes, 10 percent. Sofi, et al reported that greater adherence to the Mediterranean Diet was associated with reduction in overall mortality by 9 percent, with a 13 percent decrease in Parkinson s and Alzheimer s diseases.

Two studies published in the Journal of the American Medication Association in August 2009 were related to diet, Alzheimer s disease, cognitive decline and risk of dementia. Scarmeas, et al reported that high adherence to a Mediterranean-type diet was associated with a 40 percent reduced risk of Alzheimer s, and that much physical activity was associated with a 33 percent decreased risk. Feart, et al reported on a French study that showed higher adherence to the diet was associated with slower cognitive decline as measured by the Mini-Mental Status Examination.

Anstey, et al reviewed 15 prospective geriatric studies and found that drinkers had a 34 percent reduced relative risk of Alzheimer s compared to non-drinkers, and 47 percent risk of any dementia

Finally, Ala a, et al in Atherosclerosis reported a meta-analysis on observation studies of the prevalence of metabolic syndrome as a function of alcohol consumption. Remember that this syndrome consists of four cardiovascular risk factors: obesity, hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. They found significant benefit from alcohol consumption of less than 40 gm/day in men and less than 20 gm/day in women.

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