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Delhi Wine Club

Posted: Tuesday, January 06 2009. 10:38

Blog: Drink Fine Wine-in Moderation

Over the last couple of decades, scores of studies conducted, have consistently indicated that wine is good for heart when taken in moderation. Two units constituted by about 250 mL of wine at 12-12.5% alcohol are considered optimum quantity that should be imbibed on a daily basis.

Several studies in fact have also indicated similar benefits with beer and liquor. However, red wine is generally found to be more beneficial, due to the presence of anti-aging compounds like resveratrol. White wine has also come up on top in a few studies for specific benefits like cold, lungs etc.

All such studies carry a rider by the researchers that further studies need to be carried out to validate their results -as if they are unsure about their study or don't want to take any moral responsibility for any yet-unknown harms that might be caused.

The increased risk of breast cancer for women drinking more than one unit of wine or alcohol has also been documented in several studies. Many doctors in the US even prescribe regular intake of foliates in the form of easily available inexpensive pills to reduce this risk.

A few years ago when I mentioned this fact at a conference titled 'After the French Paradox' organised by the Indian Wine Academy at the French Embassy in Delhi, I was chided by a lady in the audience who was a cancer specialist. She said I ought not to talk of cancer until proper studies were carried out by cancer specialists.

I have attended a few international conferences relating to heart health and wine, in the US where top international cardiologists take part. I knew that this effect was already a matter of concern but I let it pass at that moment.

Recently, more and more studies on wine and health have been focussing on the cancer aspect of alcohol and there seems to be a lot of controversy and disagreement over the extent of risks involved. Some studies have concluded that there are  negative effects of wine and alcohol on different forms of cancer, though an equal number or more indicate no such effect and even indicate positive impact for some cancers (breast cancer is not one of them and all studies indicate an increased risk with higher alcohol intake).

A latest study claims that 'people who consume 80 grams of alcohol per day (213 mL of strong alcohol) increase by 18 times their risk of developing esophagus cancer, compared to people who don't consume alcohol. This risk increase becomes even more significant among smokers, who have 44 times more risk of suffering from this dreadful cancer.'

Alcohol's adverse effect on the risk of developing esophagus cancer is, however, not observed among moderate red wine consumers.

Spanish researchers found in another study recently that people who daily consumed 25 grams of strong alcohol (more than 14%) had 2.5 times more risk of suffering from the disease than those who abstain. But people who consumed the same quantity of red wine didn't have an increased risk of developing the disease.

But we cannot keep our eyes shut to another recent study by the World Cancer Research Fund in UK, which said that a large glass of wine a day increases the risk of liver and bowel cancer by 20% and 18% resp.

Several doctors don't want to get into the controversial or contradictory results and advise people to refrain from drinking alcohol or wine altogether.

While drinking wine and alcohol or not, should be an individual choice, it is safe and prudent to assume that one or two glasses of wine everyday are quite 'harmless'. And if one is going to limit the intake, it makes more sense to enjoy the sensorial attributes of fine wines rather than gulping glassfuls of low-end wines which add no pleasure to your palate and due to an overdose of chemicals and sulphurisation to kill bacteria may cause headaches and hangovers.

It is a safe bet to assume that one should strive to drink only fine wine - in moderation. The issue of red or white is not as critical- drink what you personally like.

Subhash Arora


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