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So what’s the deal with red wine?

It was after all Jesus’ first miracle. The groom’s friends then commended their friend on bringing the best wine until last.  While Jesus couldn’t have been wrong, does red wine have all the virtues it enjoys?

Long before Jesus, wine was considered medicine until the late 19th century. The ancient Egyptians mixed it with herbs such as coriander or sage to treat stomach problems and even herpes. Hippocrates even prescribed it for those suffering from indigestion while Louis Pasteur, during the cholera and typhus epidemic, declared it “the most healthful and hygienic of all beverages.”

There were those to whom the beverage wasn’t recommended, such as those with nervous system diseases or women in ancient Rome. Apparently, it had the potential of causing them to “slip into disgrace” or worse, turn them “towards illicit sex.”  It wasn’t until the twenties that the dangers of drunkenness and alcoholism started to be alluded to, heralding prohibition.

Towards the late eighties, the phrase, the French paradox, started to be bandied about.  Compared with the populations of the United States and the United Kingdom, the French were considered healthier despite consuming just as much saturated fats and cholesterol as the Americans and the British.  Their health was explained by the copious amount of wine they continued to consume over the period of the prohibition. More recent reports have explained that the French paradox can simply be explained by the amount of whole foods they eat.

Still, research has shown that red wine contains antioxidants like resveratrol, catechin and proanthocyanidins and these are the antioxidants believed to be responsible for the health benefits of red wine.  Resveratrol especially, according to research, has many benefits such as fighting inflammation and blood clotting, reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer and has been reported to make test animals live longer. Unfortunately though, obtaining those benefits will mean drinking quite a few units of wine a day, something that is not recommended by health professionals.

In fact, the consumption of red wine for health benefits is not even recommended by some scientists.

“Red wine only contains very small amounts of resveratrol and people shouldn’t drink wine in an attempt to get any health benefits,” says Dr Emma Smith, the science communications officer at cancer research U.K.  Still according to her, “even in moderate amounts, alcohol increases the risk of several cancers.”

Also, the famous antioxidant resveratrol is released after the grapes have been fermented for several weeks or more, a technique that unfortunately many winemakers don’t follow.  For Prof. Roger Corder at Queen Mary University in London, England and author of the Red Wine Diet, wine should be drunk in a healthy way. And that, is the deal with red wine.

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