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Wine In Moderation

"Il vino è la poesia della terra"
Mario Soldati,
1906 » 1999

Wine, Beer, Alcohol and Polyphenols
on Cardiovascular Disease and Cancer.

Sara Arranz, Gemma Chiva-Blanch, Palmira Valderas-Martínez, Alex Medina-Remón, Rosa M. Lamuela-Raventós and Ramón Estruch

Nutrients, 2012 July

Since ancient times, people have attributed a variety of health benefits to moderate consumption of fermented beverages such as wine and beer, often without any scientific basis. There is evidence that excessive or binge alcohol consumption is associated with increased morbidity and mortality, as well as with work related and traffic accidents. On the contrary, at the moment, several epidemiological studies have suggested that moderate consumption of alcohol reduces overall mortality, mainly from coronary diseases. However, there are discrepancies regarding the specific effects of different types of beverages (wine, beer and spirits) on the cardiovascular system and cancer, and also whether the possible protective effects of alcoholic beverages are due to their alcoholic content (ethanol) or to their non-alcoholic components (mainly polyphenols). Epidemiological and clinical studies have pointed out that regular and moderate wine consumption (one to two glasses a day) is associated with decreased incidence of cardiovascular disease (CVD), hypertension, diabetes, and certain types of cancer, including colon, basal cell, ovarian, and prostate carcinoma. Moderate beer consumption has also been associated with these effects, but to a lesser degree, probably because of beer’s lower phenolic content. These health benefits have mainly been attributed to an increase in antioxidant capacity, changes in lipid profiles, and the anti-inflammatory effects produced by these alcoholic beverages. This review summarizes the main protective effects on the cardiovascular system and cancer resulting from moderate wine and beer intake due mainly to their common components, alcohol and polyphenols.

Since ancient times wine has been closely associated with diet, particularly in Mediterranean countries, and for many years, moderate and regular consumption of wine has been associated with health benefits, with no scientific basis. However, over the last two decades, several studies around the world have demonstrated that intake of alcoholic beverages produces positive effects on antioxidant capacity, lipid profile and the coagulation system, that may explain the reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), overall mortality and other diseases observed in moderate drinkers. By contrast, alcohol abuse or binge drinking has undoubtedly been related to a large number of medical, social and work related problems (negative effects), including the development of alcohol dependence syndrome, several chronic diseases (liver cirrhosis, cardiomyopathy, encephalopathies, polyneuropathy, dementia) and accidents which eventually lead to death.
Several cohort studies have pointed out that light-to-moderate alcohol consumers have an increased survival compared to abstainers. Current evidence also suggests the protective effects of moderate drinking on cardiovascular events including coronary heart disease (CHD), ischemic stroke, peripheral arteriopathy and congestive heart failure. Positive effects have also been reported for moderate alcohol consumption on cellular aging damage, cognitive function and dementia. These effects have been observed in a variety of patients, including diabetics, hypertensive subjects and those with previous CHD.
Beneficial effects of moderate alcohol intake against atherosclerosis have been attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as to its actions on vascular function. In this framework, part of these effects may be attributed to polyphenols mainly contained in wine and beer, as these compounds exhibit antioxidant, anticarcenogenic, anti-inflammatory, hypotensive or even anticoagulant properties.

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