Sunday, February 3, 2008


Best Wines for Your Health
Roger Corder, PhD
William Harvey Research Institute or years, scientists theorized that the "French Paradox" -- the phenomenon of relatively low rates of heart disease among the French, who are known for their rich, fatty foods -- may be due, in part, to the daily consumption of red wine.
Now: The cumulative body of scientific evidence shows that moderate consumption of red wine not only reduces the risk for heart disease, but also for stroke and metabolic syndrome (a constellation of health problems that can lead to heart disease and diabetes). Wine also helps people live longer and avoid dementia. Only recently, however, have scientists begun to identify the specific compounds in red wine that confer health benefits.
Trap: Mass-produced, sweet red wines with high alcohol content (above 14%) do not offer high levels of health-promoting chemicals.
What you must know to choose the most healthful wines -- and the best options for nondrinkers...
Recent research shows that white wine may offer some of the same health benefits of red wine, such as protection from heart disease, but the bulk of scientific evidence focuses on red wine.
Latest developments: Animal experiments show that polyphenols -- chemicals found abundantly in dark and/or colorful foods, such as red and purple grapes, cocoa and pomegranates -- can stop atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries). That's because polyphenols affect the endothelium (cells lining the arteries), causing blood vessels to widen (vasodilate), increasing blood flow.
Breakthrough: In November 2006, English scientists published a paper in Nature -- a renowned scientific journal -- showing that...
The most potent polyphenols in red wines are procyanidins, healthful plant substances that over time become condensed tannins, compounds that give an astringent taste to wine. The more procyanidins consumed, the greater degree of vasodilation that occurs.
Regions in Europe with the highest rates of proven longevity produce wines with two to four times more procyanidins than do other regions.
Examples: Many varieties of Bordeaux wines from France and Chianti wines from Italy.
What you may not know: Resveratrol is often mentioned as the key heart-protecting component of red wine. But to get enough resveratrol to benefit the heart, you would need to drink 1,000 quarts of wine a day. Resveratrol supplements haven't been proven safe or effective.
Many factors influence the level of procyanidins in red wine.
Certain varieties of grapes, including cabernet sauvignon and malbec, are higher in procyanidins than other red and white grapes. Other positive factors include the altitude of the vineyard (the higher, the better)... a slower ripening process... a lower yield (the amount of grapes produced per vine)... and older vines.
Useful: Wines described as having "firm" tannins are more likely to have high levels of procyanidins than wines with "soft" or "ripe" tannins. Look for this description in wine reviews and at the Web sites of wine retailers, such as K&L Wine Merchants ( and, Inc. (
The most healthful way to drink red wine is in the classic French style -- one or two small glasses at lunch and/or with dinner, as food slows alcohol absorption. Most research shows that women should not exceed five ounces of wine per day, and men should limit their daily consumption to 10 ounces.
When red wine is consumed in excess, its health benefits are outweighed by the risks associated with alcohol abuse, including increased risks for many types of cancer, as well as heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
Caution: Drinking wine quickly or on an empty stomach speeds alcohol absorption, increasing the risk for high blood pressure.
If you prefer not to drink red wine, consider these procyanidin-rich foods...
Dark chocolate. Look for a bittersweet or extra-dark chocolate, with 70% to 85% cacao. One ounce of dark chocolate delivers the amount of procyanidins in four ounces of red wine.
Caution: To limit calories, don't eat more than one ounce to one-and-a-half ounces of dark chocolate daily.
Apples. Red Delicious and Granny Smith have high levels of procyanidins. One medium-sized apple is equivalent to four ounces of red wine.
Cranberry juice. An eight-ounce serving of juice containing 25% cranberry is roughly equivalent to a four-ounce glass of red wine. Choose low-sugar versions with at least 25% cranberry content.
Other sources of heart-healthy procyanidins: Raspberries, blackberries and strawberries, Concord grape juice, pomegranates, walnuts, pinto beans and cinnamon.
Laboratory analyses of more than 400 red wines at William Harvey Research Institute show that the following have high levels of healthful procyanidins...
Argentina. Cabernet Sauvignon, from Bodegas Catena Zapata.
Australia. Cabernet Sauvignon, from Wynns.
California. Cabernet Sauvignon, from Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Reserve... and many other Napa Valley cabernets.
Chile. Cabernet sauvignons from Veramonte.
France. Large numbers of Bordeaux wines -- both at the top end of the market and modestly priced -- have high or better-than-average procyanidin levels.
Italy. In Tuscany, wines made from the Sangiovese grape that tested well include Il Colombaio di Cencios Chianti Classico Riserva.
In Sardinia, where wine-drinkers are particularly long-lived, a good choice is Rosso Superiore del Mandrolisai.

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