Dec 06: The World Heart Day last Sunday was accompanied by a study conducted in 10 cities in India disclosing that 40% of Indians are prone to heart risks with the researchers finding no difference of the risk between drinkers and abstainers.
The latter finding of the study is the surprising part. Most studies across the world during the past twenty years have shown that with moderate consumption of wine or alcohol, the cardiac risks come down substantially, provided two standard units of alcohol are consumed regularly.
It is pertinent to remind our readers once more on the occasion of the World Heart Day that additionally, wine contains resveratrol – the chemicals that contain anti-oxidants which whisky and other hard liquors do not.
Studies have shown that moderate wine drinker can improve the balance of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad" cholesterol) to high-density lipoprotein (HDL or "good" cholesterol). This is supposed to clean up or remove LDL from blocking arteries. The main cause of heart attacks and the pain of angina is the lack of oxygen caused by blood clots and the plaque built up in the arteries. The alcohol in wine has anticoagulant properties that limit blood clotting.
However these anticoagulant properties of wine only stay in the system for a maximum of 24 hours after consumption. That is why one is advised to drink regularly and not binge on the weekends.
On this occasion one cannot undermine the importance of proper diet, exercise, no smoking regime etc. suggested as usual by a few articles in the press. But it is time to ponder if you imbibe alcohol whether you should not switch from two pegs of whisky to two glasses of wine- preferably red, but of your choice and preference.
My thoughts also went out on Sunday to Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the USA, who relinquished his office exactly 200 years ago, in 1809. A very versatile man known sometimes as Leonardo da Vinci of America, he was a wine expert, the most knowledgeable wine connoisseur of his time. He even planted the first vineyard in the USA, in his home state of Virginia.
Jefferson called wine a necessity of life. He said, "no nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is in truth the only antidote to the bane of whisky.”
He condemned whisky and other hard liquor being consumed by the Americans at the time and referred to them as the poison which is desolating the houses of the middle classes. The reformation however, would require time, he conceded in his writings.*
When I founded the Delhi Wine Club in 2002, I was full of excitement and vigour to motivate our whisky guzzling friends to switch to wine. I had to beat a hasty retreat and today we accept members only if they already drink wine but want to learn more about it through informal get- togethers with like minded people in an atmosphere we encourage discussion on wine.
It would be naïve to think that whisky and hard liquor would ever be replaced by wine and beer as a majority in this country. It has taken the USA (who was also under England’s thumbs like us), 200 years to shake the habit after Jefferson referred to it. But, with wine benefits to heart health known through innumerable studies during the last two decades, the process should accelerate and with Indian and imported wine being made available at a never before pace or prices, it is time you consider switching from whisky (a synonym for hard liquor for both Jefferson and I- pardon the expression) to wine.
Of course, if you don’t drink any alcohol for any reason, there is no need to start drinking wine for keeping heart healthy. Stick to the healthy diet recommended by the heart specialists, do plenty of exercise, give up smoking and take a lot of foods that have anti-oxidants properties- like tea, chocolate, nuts etc.
DelWine recommends the policy of 1-2-3. One to two glasses a day for women and 2-3 glasses a day for men- maximum; regularly-preferably with meals to keep a healthy heart.
* Reference to p.21 of the book Thomas Jefferson on Wine by John Hailman
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