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Blog: Reading too much into Wine Benefits

Posted: Wednesday, 17 February 2016 10:54


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Blog: Reading too much into Wine Benefits

Feb 17: A new study suggesting that phenols found in red and sparkling wine help to protect brain cells from damage and also concluding that phenols may help nerve and brain cells to keep communicating with other cells, thus countering the effects of Alzheimer’s, and with yet another recent research by the same Reading University suggesting that champagne may help prevent the onset of dementia, making one wonder if the studies are not biased and meant to create counter opinion against the measures recommended recently by the UK Government

The new ‘study of studies’ suggests that chemicals known as phenols, most commonly found in red and sparkling wine, can help to protect brain cells from damage. Apparently the results from around 100 previous studies were compiled by the University which came to the conclusion that phenols perhaps help nerve and brain cells to keep communicating with other cells, countering the effects of Alzheimer’s.

The review, led by Dr Jeremy Spencer of the University of Reading in Berkshire, United Kingdom and published in Wine Safety, Consumer Preference, and Human Health ,according to the DrinksBusiness is contrary to the controversial new British government guidance last month when the Chief Medical Officer dismissed the benefits of drinking red wine as an old wives tale and recommended reduced weekly consumption for men, cutting down to the equal 14 units for both men and women.

Earlier (or as a part of the same master study), the Researchers at Reading University, had said that Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, the two red grapes used to make champagne (it seems to be quiet about the white chardonnay grapes), contain compounds that can ward off brain diseases and boost spatial memory. It had even recommended the quantity of three glasses a week according to the media reports.

Reportedly, theScientists at Reading University conducted their experiment with rats and now want to move onto trials involving older adults.

Here lies the rub. Universities and the faculty need research grants and they like to pick topics that can possibly give favourable results in an area where the results have already indicated some trends. This results in making grants an easier chore. There has been a case in the USA where a professor of Indian origin was caught fudging result and had to be unceremoniously removed even from his teaching assignment. His aim was to show through various studies for which grants were received, that red wine was good for heart (such studies help the sale of red wine whether it is factually correct or not). Any study that tends to support the findings is encouraged and grants are forthcoming easier.

"This research is exciting because it illustrates for the first time that moderate consumption of champagne has the potential to influence cognitive functioning such as memory," said Jeremy Spencer, a biochemistry professor at Reading University and leading the study.

A spokesman for the Alzheimer's Society politely termed the results ‘interesting’ but conceded that a lot more research needed to be done, according to the report.

It has been a well-established fact that the amount of tannins and the resultant phenols that are found in the grapes that are picked up in any case earlier for sparkling wines for better acidity, are negligible in quantity as compared to their potential. It would be thus in order to have some peer group or wine experts’ Comment on this aspect; this does not seem to have been done; same with the funding for the project.

Several studies have been conducted during the last 20 years to study the effects of wine on dementia and most of them have indicated a positive relationship. Wine taken in moderation reduced dementia by significant percentages. But in all those studies the source of funding was generally not specified. Besides there have been insufficient peer-group validations for such studies. ‘More studies are needed’ seems to be the most common refrain.

Perhaps the timing of the studies also makes the study circumspect. Most wine drinkers have been rightly upset by the arbitrary stand taken by the UK government, seemingly under pressure from the abstinence and anti-alcohol groups. The Study (s) seems to have been steered in the direction to counter the recommendations.

I believe, we should not read too much in the results and stop reading too much about the benefits of wine.

Subhash Arora

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Remie Law Says:

If indeed it was a "study of studies" (I could not confirm while searching Reading U), it would represent the culmination of many studies from various sources that resulted with the same or similar conclusions. This is as opposed to research/study by a single entity. Further, University of Reading is a leading research facility for these type of studies, which reinforces its conclusions. Given the above, I do agree that the subsequent Press coverage reads too much in Reading U's conclusions. The actual extracts were much less effusive than the Press' enthusiasm.

Posted @ February 22, 2016 13:36


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