Wine drinkers have never had it so good. Not only does a glass or two, or even three, taste rather good, it’s remarkably healthy, too, protecting against a whole range of diseases.Cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, early death – you name it and the contents of a bottle of vino will cure it, according to almost half the researchers investigating the phenomenon.
The problem is that the other half reckon that drinking wine can lead to serious health damage, causing cancer, heart disease, stroke, infertility and myriad other disorders.
In the latest studies, doctors have found that a few glasses of wine a week can protect women against high blood pressure, and men and women over 55 from blocked leg arteries.
For consumers, the growing number of research results like these just adds to the confusion about whether drinking-wine is really beneficial. In the past, the health guidance on drinking was quite simple: don’t. Even a small amount probably did some harm, it was thought, and anything above the equivalent of 10 pints of beer a week was tantamount to suicide.
But things have changed. Over the past few years, there have been almost as many health studies on alcohol as there are grapes in a vineyard, and each one has a new theory. Many suggest that a moderate amount of wine is good for mind and body.
The result is that the whole issue of health and wine has become as cloudy as a bottle of home-made elderberry. There are even disputes over what type of wine is best.
So what is the truth about wine and your health – is it poison or medicine?
Food poisoning: a glass or two of red and white wine with a meal kills the bacteria responsible for almost all illnesses caused by food.
Brain: wine improves brain function in older women. French researchers found that women over 50 who drank two or more glasses of wine daily were 2.5 times more likely to score in the top 10 per cent in tests.
Arteries: those who drink one or two glasses of wine a day have a reduced risk of developing blocked arteries in the legs.Wine improves circulation, dilates blood vessels and raises good cholesterol.
Infections: red wine, unlike some other forms of alcohol, does not suppress the immune system. Cells fighting off infections are unaffected by moderate amounts.
Dementia: a glass of red wine a day might help ward off neurodegenerative diseases. A compound called resveratrol in grapes stimulates an enzyme in the brain involved in nerve regeneration.
Heart attack: people who drink up to 30 units of alcohol a week are less likely to die of a heart attack than abstainers. Moderate drinking – two glasses of wine for men and one for women – may improve the chances of surviving a heart attack.
Eyesight: moderate drinking of wine – but not beer or spirits – has been linked to a lower risk of age-related degeneration of the retina, which can lead to blindness.
Jogging: runners who drink moderately – two glasses of wine a day – have raised levels of good cholesterol.
Infertility: women drinking five units or fewer a week are twice as likely to conceive within six months as women drinking more than 10 units a week.
Sex: in men, too much alcohol can dilate blood vessels in the body, including those supplying the penis, with a detrimental effect on performance. Blood level of testosterone also falls as alcohol levels rise. Heavy drinking can also lead to testicular shrivelling, hormonal changes and enlarged breast tissue in men.
Acne: alcohol may be a trigger for acne rosacea, and red wine – as well as champagne, gin, beer and whisky – has been implicated.
Cancer: heavy and sustained drinking, usually involving more than 30 units a week for men, has been linked to a range of cancers including mouth, liver, throat, colon and stomach tumours. In women it has been associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer.
Pregnancy: one boozy binge by the mother during critical times in the pregnancy can damage the foetus. Several hours of drinking can delete millions of neurones from the baby’s developing brain. One glass of wine a week is allowed.
Breast-feeding: alcohol is still toxic to the baby’s developing brain. During the first two years mothers are advised not to drink.
Depression: although alcohol is often used as a way of coping with anxiety, it can be a depressant after three or more units.
Weight: alcohol is rich in calories and boosts appetite. Such calories have no beneficial nutrients.
By ROGER DOBSON, Daily Mail