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Brief Abstracts of Wine & Health Research Studies in 2008

As you digest the myriad of research studies to follow, I want to leave you with this important disclaimer: Consult with your doctor about the effects of wine consumption on your health.


European Heart Journal (January 2008) The chances of a longer life are increased when moderate consumption of alcohol and moderate exercise are combined than by either of the two activities done separately. The highest risk of death in the study group were those who were physically inactive and heavy drinkers and the lowest risk of death were those who exercised regularly and drank moderately. This is the first study to look at the combination of exercise and alcohol intake. Regardless of level of physical activity, men and women who drank moderately had the lowest risk of death from all causes.

Public Library of Science ONE (June 2008). Resveratrol even when consumed in moderate amounts can protect the heart from aging. Low doses of resveratrol (4.9 mg per kg of body weight, about the amount found in 3-4 glasses of red wine) added to the diets of mice kept their hearts healthier longer. This study approached the question of just how much resveratrol is required in the human diet to produce its healthy effects. The authors of this study feel as little as one glass of red wine a day may be sufficient to replicate the same findings of this research, opening the possibility that dietary supplementation with resveratrol may oppose the majority of gene-induced alterations in the aging heart.

Cell Metabolism (July 2008). Resveratrol prevents aging changes in bones, eyes, kidneys, heart and other muscles in mice without lengthening the lifespan of the animals. The amounts of resveratrol used in the study far exceeded what a person would obtain through normal eating and drinking habits. The authors feel that resveratrol may have a more marked effect on humans and may even extend life span.

Polyphenols may play a role in retarding the changes associated with aging of the skin. The antioxidant action of polyphenols can retard the oxidative chemical reaction in skin cells caused by free radicals that leads to wrinkling, sagging, lines, dark spots and the loss of tone of the skin with age. Free radicals originate from ultraviolet rays and pollution, dietary fat, cigarette smoke and stress. Joseph Vercauteren, an expert on polyphenols, has stated that antioxidants from grape seeds are 10,000 times more effective than vitamin E in fighting free radicals. Several skin-care companies have developed products from grape seeds, grape juice, red vine leaf and shoot extracts, wine sap and wine yeast. The companies supplying these vinotherapy products include Caudalle, Dior’s L’Or de Vie and L’Occitane from France, and 29 Cosmetics, California North’s Appellation Spa and Davi Skin from California. Vinotherapy spa treatments that include grape seed scrubs, grape seed oil messages and wine and grape seed body wraps are available worldwide. Although the effectiveness of vinotherapy has not been established through scientific studies, it has been shown that resveratrol can be absorbed through the skin. Taiwanese researchers reported in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin (May, 2008) that the most effective way to transmit resveratrol to the body is by way of a patch according to their experiments done on mice. Metabolism of resveratrol is slower on the skin compared to the stomach, the half-life of resveratrol is longer and its effects stronger when absorbed through the skin. Besides preventing aging changes in the skin, polyphenols may have therapeutic implications for the prevention of ultraviolet exposure and skin cancers.

Cardiovascular Disease

American J of Epidemiology (January 2008). Moderate drinkers who drank one to thirteen servings of alcohol per week were 44 percent less likely to develop arterial disease of the lower extremities. Non drinkers and heavy drinkers had a similar higher risk

Atherosclerosis (March 2008). Quercetin reduces inflammation associated with cardiovascular disease.

American Journal of Medicine (March 2008). A ten-year study found that non drinkers in their mid-40s to mid-60s, even those who never drank previously, and who started drinking moderately, lowered their risk of heart attack by up to 68 percent. Also, those who drank wine were less likely to have cardiovascular disease such as coronary artery disease and myocardial infarction than those who drank beer or spirits. The authors of the study recommend a heart-healthy diet that can include limited alcohol intake. This is in contradistinction to the American Heart Association recommendations which state that nondrinkers should not begin drinking alcohol in middle age due to possible ill effects. The study did not followup patients after the four year study so longer term effects are not known.

Hypertension (April 2008). Postmenopausal women are more at risk for high blood pressure than men of the same age. This study found that polyphenols in red wine can potentially be a treatment for post-menopausal hypertension and vascular complications. A rat model was used in which menopause was duplicated by removing the rats’ ovaries which caused their blood pressure to rise. Half of the rats were fed a diet that contained red-wine compounds including polyphenols such as resveratrol for five weeks. The high blood pressure was eliminated in rats that received the red-wine compound treatment and a pathological examination revealed their blood vessels had healthier linings, more relaxed aortas and less oxidative stress. The mechanism of action of the red-wine polyphenols in reducing high blood pressure is unknown.

Nutrition (July-August 2008). Spanish researches found that both fiber and antioxidants in Tempranillo grape reduce blood pressure and cholesterol better than other sources of dietary fiber. The subjects ingested a Tempranillo-based dietary fiber product.

American Journal of Health Promotion (September-October 2008). Researchers in Spain found among volunteers that wine drinkers who adhered on average to the Mediterranean diet had a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than drinkers of other types of alcohol who adhered to a similar diet. The conclusion was that it is wine and not the Mediterranean diet per se that has the protective effect on cardiovascular disease.

Metabolic Syndrome and Related Disorders (October 2008). Italian researchers found that sirtuins may help repair cell damage in diabetics who have had a heart attack. When a moderate amount of red wine was taken daily by patients undergoing treatment, ventricular function improved.

Journal of Gerontology: Biological Sciences (October 2008). Rats were fed a diet high in salt to induce hypertension and then were given grape powder in their diet. The beneficial effects included lowered blood pressure and reduced vascular inflammation. The authors of this study believe that it is flavonoids in the grape powder that directly affect hypertension due either to actions on cell function or through antioxidant effects.

Nutrition Research (November 2008). A review of 26 research studies on polyphenols in grapes. Some studies found that patients treated with grape seed extracts had improved blood flow and lowered cholesterol levels. Another study showed that patients with coronary heart disease had improved circulation and hypertensive patients had lowered blood pressure. Other studies on rats and dogs showed a reduced number of blood clots and heart arrhythmias when the animals were fed resveratrol as part of their diet.

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (December 2008). High dietary and blood omega-3 fatty acids are protective against coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. A study of 1604 subjects, ages 25 to 65 years old in Italy, Belgium and England, found that alcohol intake was associated with higher plasma and red blood cell concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids. It is postulated that polyphenols in wine might exert these effects and part of alcohol-induced cardioprotection may be mediated through increased omega-3 fatty acids.

British Journal of Nutrition (December 2008). Moderate ethanol drinking and n-3 (omega-3) fatty acids have been associated with low cardiac mortality. This is the first animal study confirming the interaction of alcohol drinking with n-3 fatty acids. The authors found no harmful effect of moderate ethanol drinking on the heart of rats studied, rather a significant cardioprotection.

Journal of American Medical Association (December 2008). Among healthy middle-aged women, consumption of up to 2 alcoholic beverages a day was not associated with an increased risk of incident atrial fibrillation. Heavier consumption of 2 or more drinks per day, however, was associated with a small but statistically significant increased risk of atrial fibrillation. This is the first study to show woman have a higher risk of atrial fibrillation secondary to alcohol intake.

Commentary on atrial fibrillation. Both acute and chronic alcohol use have been associated with cardiac arrhythmia, in particular atrial fibrillation, or so-called ‘holiday heart syndrome.’ Epidemiological, clinical and experimental studies have attempted to elucidate the mechanisms involved in this association. However, because most of these studies have shown conflicting results, the connection between ethanol and atrial arrhythmia remains controversial.

Cognitive Function (Brain)

American Journal of Epidemiology (March 2008). Several epidemiological studies indicate that moderate consumption of red wine is associated with a lower incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Women in Sweden who drink wine in moderation every week were 70% less likely to suffer from dementia. This 34-year study found that women who drank beer or spirits had only a 15 to 20 percent less incidence of dementia. It would appear that compounds other than ethanol contribute to the beneficial effect of wine on dementia. In addition, women who drank moderately lived longer.

The Journal of Neuroscience (May 2008). Using mice which had been genetically modified to exhibit signs of Alzheimer’s disease, this study found that a naturally derived grape seed polyphenolic extract can significantly inhibit Alzheimer’s disease type cognitive deterioration. The polyphenols in the extract prevented the deposition of beta-amyloid plaques in the brains of the mice that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease in humans. The study suggests that grape seed-derived polyphenolics may be useful agents to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease. A similar study is planned on humans. The sponsors of this study hope to create a grape seed pill that could replace wine in patients who cannot have alcohol in their diet.

Archives of Neurology (October 2008). This study found that moderate alcohol consumption was not protective against normal age related differences in total brain volume. Even people who drank lightly had a slightly smaller brain than non drinkers. The more alcohol consumed, the smaller the total brain volume, especially in women.


Hepatology (June 2008). Researchers discovered that people who drink up to one glass of wine a day are not causing damage to their liver and are decreasing their risk of non alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD is an accumulation of fat in the liver that is the most common liver disease in the United States. The odds of having NAFLD were reduced by 50 percent in people who drank one glass of wine a day. Beer and spirits drinkers were four times more likely to develop the disease when compared to wine drinkers. It is not clear if the benefits were due to alcohol or non-alcohol components of wine but the study hints of a major role of the latter.

American Journal of Physiology – Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology (October 2008). Resveratrol reduces the amount of fat produced in the livers of mice fed high levels of alcohol. Also, resveratrol seems to increase the rate at which already stored liver fat is metabolized. A combination of ethanol and resveratrol had a greater effect than resveratrol alone. The results are tempered by the fact that the mice received a daily quantity of resveratrol equal to that found in several hundred bottles of red wine. Alcohol alone is thought to cause fat buildup in the liver by deactivating the enzyme sirtuin that is associated with the metabolism of fat. It is thought that resveratrol stimulates genes that are responsible for the production and activity of sirtuin. The authors of the study recommended abstinence in the problem drinker since the effects of alcohol abuse go far beyond the effects on the liver. For the moderate drinker, wine is a better choice than liquor because of its resveratrol content. A concentrated form of resveratrol may accomplish the same effect for beer or liquor drinkers.


Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry (June 2008). Israeli researchers found that the stomach in rats was better able to digest meat in the presence of red wine. When hydroperoxides and malondialdehyde levels of the stomach contents were measured during and after digestion of red turkey meat, the addition of red wine polyphenols reduced levels of hydroperoxide and malondialdehyde. Also, malondialdehyde levels in plasma were maintained or reduced following digestion of meat and red wine concentrate compared to meat digestion alone. Hydroperoxides and malondialdehydes are found in meat as well as fried and processed foods and are potentially harmful cytotoxic substances normally released during digestion. The study was repeated with alcohol free red wine and the results were similar indicating polyphenols in red wine are responsible.


Annals of Rheumatic Disease (June 2008). Moderate wine consumption (five drinks per week) lowers the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by up to 50% compared to those who drank little or no alcohol. The results were the same for both men and women. The study also found that smoking increased the risk in those with a genetic susceptibility to rheumatoid arthritis.


Journal of Food Biochemistry(February 2008). Red wine and tea inhibit the enzyme alpha-glucosidase, a contributor to sugar buildup in type 2 diabetics allowing diabetics to metabolize sugars and starches more effectively. The authors recommend one to two glasses of red wine daily and four to five glasses of tea as well as a range of whole foods to maximize phenol levels.

Meeting of Endocrine Society in San Francisco (June 15 2008). A German study found resveratrol counteracts obesity by limiting the number of fat cells produced by stem cells. The authors of the study found that resveratrol acts similar to caloric restriction (a reduction by 30 to 40 percent in calorie intake) that has been shown in mammals to have health benefits. Reservatrol may have a roll in treating obesity or preventing obesity.

Cell Metabolism (November 2008) Mice fed a high-fat diet and treated with SRT1720, a drug designed by Sirtris Phramaceuticals that mimics resveratrol, did not become obese. Triglyceride and cholesterol levels were reduced and the mice could run for a longer time than the control group.

Angiology (December-January 2008). A study of 4,153 adults in Greece found that mild (one and a half or less drinks per day) and moderate (one and a half to three drinks per day) alcohol intake reduced the risk of developing so-called metabolic syndrome. This syndrome consists of an array of disorders that can cause heart disease and diabetes mellitus. Heavy drinkers (three and half or more drinks per day) were 25 percent more likely to develop metabolic syndrome. When the group was studied specifically for heart disease, wine was found to have the greatest benefit. Moderate drinkers were 58% less likely to develop heart disease than abstainers and beer and spirits drinkers were 48% and 41% less likely. Heavy drinkers had a high risk of heart disease regardless of the type of alcoholic drink they preferred.

Infectious Disease

American Journal of Physiology - Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology (August 2008). This study on mice was divided into two groups with one group receiving water and the other group was given Tang spiked with 12.5 mg per kg of quercetin. The average red table wine contains 8.4 mg of quercetin per kg. One group given water and one group given quercetin were exercised vigorously on a treadmill until exhausted for three days. All groups were then infected with influenza virus and observed. The results indicate that quercetin protects rats against influenza, especially after a physical workout. It is postulated that quercetin may block replication of the flu virus. Short-term quercetin feedings may have value in endurance athletes and soldiers by lessening the impact of rigorous exercise on susceptibility to respiratory infection.

Journal of Food Science (September 2007). Mark A. Daeschel, an Oregon State university food scientist, found that a cleanser derived from wine components is effective against E. coli and staphylococcus and may provide a commercial alternative to present disinfectants that contain bleach and ammonia and create a use for low-quality and surplus wine.


Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology (March 2008) This study showed that resveratrol may enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy treatments. This laboratory study on pancreatic cancer cells would indicate that patients receiving chemotherapy who normally would be advised to abstain from alcohol should not necessarily avoid red wine.

Cancer Prevention Research (July 2008). Resveratrol inhibits the metabolism of estrogen which in turn protects cells from becoming cancerous, even in small doses equal to the amounts in an average glass of red wine. In a laboratory culture study, resveratrol suppressed the abnormal cell formation that leads to most types of breast cancer. Resveratrol induces an enzyme, quinone reductase, that reduces estrogen metabolite back to an inactive form. By making estrogen inactive, resveratrol decreases the associated risk.

Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers & Prevention (October 2008). A Kaiser Permanente group studied male's health patterns through surveys and found that men who drank red wine regularly had a reduced risk of lung cancer. Even smokers who drank red wine were 60 percent less likely to develop lung cancer compared with non-drinking smokers. Moderate white wine drinkers had only a slightly less risk of developing lung cancer compared to non-drinking smokers. Those smokers who drank beer or liquor had no reduced risk of lung cancer. It would appear that it is an antioxidant in red wine that protects against lung cancer, especially in smokers. Dietary factors also come into play because red wine drinkers tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. The authors advise smokers to quite because men who drink red wine moderately and continue to smoke have a greater risk of lung cancer than nonsmokers. The results of this study need to be verified by other research because the study group of men who drank red wine had the fewest number of smokers.

Nutrition Research (October 2008). Studies on mice injected with breast cancer cells and then fed polyphenols extracted from Merlot grapes or wine found that the tumors in the mice had grown much less than in the mice that did not receive the polyphenols. Grapes had more effect than wine, presumably because of the higher polyphenol concentration. Apparently, polyphenols enable enzymes in the body that decrease the buildup of toxins resulting from hormones. The researchers plan to study other grape varieties including Pinot Noir.

American Association of Cancer Research (AACR) Meeting (April 2008). Regular consumption of alcohol, even in moderate amounts, resulted in an increased relative risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women. In women that drank wine, 1-3 servings caused a 20% increased risk and more than 3 servings led to a 41% greater risk than non drinking postmenopausal women. It has been theorized that alcohol influences the levels of hormones in postmenopausal women and this in turn may cause breast cells to become cancerous. (This report has not been cleared by the NIH for publication)

Annals of Epidemiology (June 2008). A study from the Institut Universitaire de Recherche Clinique in Montpellier found that one glass of wine per day was associated with a 40% lower risk of breast cancer. More than a glass evened the risk out to the same as nondrinkers.

Commentary about breast cancer. The last word about breast cancer risk in women has yet to be written. A major global study published in 2002 found that a single glass of wine per day increases a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer by about 6%. This seems trivial when one considers that heart disease causes 10 times as many deaths in women as breast cancer and heart disease deaths exceed breast cancer deaths in every decade of a woman’s life. A diagnosis of breast cancer carries more than a 90% cure rate. Dr. Curtis Ellison, Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at Boston University Medical School, has stated that data currently available increasingly shows that for women who do not binge drink, have adequate intake of folate and are not on hormone-replacement therapy, the risk of breast cancer appears to increase only for consumers of more than one and a half drinks per day. Ellison feels that small amounts of alcohol lower the risk of the more common causes of death among women such as heart disease, stroke, hip fracture and dementia and outweighs the risk of breast cancer.


International Journal of Epidemiology (October 2008). This study from Great Britain found that children born to mothers who drank 1 to 2 drinks per week or per occasion during pregnancy showed less clinically significant behavioral difficulties or cognitive defects at age 3 years compared with children of abstinent mothers. Pregnant mothers who drank moderately (3 to 6 drinks per week) had children who performed about the same as abstainers. Heavy drinking during pregnancy appeared to be associated with significantly more behavioral problems and cognitive defects in offspring at age 3 years.

Commentary on drinking wine during pregnancy. Public health officials in the United States as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pregnant women avoid alcohol entirely. Non alcoholic wine or varietal juices are safer choices.

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