HEALTH BENEFITS

There are a lot of reasons to drink wine, but among our favorites are the ones that say it's good for you.

Because of the fermentation, wine is considered to be a living food, like yogurt.

Beyond the sophisticated taste and its mood enhancing quality, wine has beneficial physiological effects as well.

Moderation is the key, of course, but wine aids digestion and acts as a mild tranquilizer and sedative for the heart, arteries, and blood pressure. Wine can reduce acid production, free circulation, and relieve pain. It is healthier than tranquilizers or drugs for the relief of nervous stress and tension. And, as an added benefit, in a weight loss program, a glass or two relaxes both mind and body, so that you are more likely to eat less.

Research suggests that drinking one or two glasses of wine a day can cut coronary heart disease risk by 50%, help prevent blood clot formation, and increase life span by reducing stress. Wine raises high-density lipoproteins (HDLs), while decreasing low-density lipoproteins (LDLs) to help lower dangerous cholesterol levels.

U.C. Berkeley studies have shown that red wine is high in polyphenols, powerful antioxidants that help neutralize free radicals that damange DNA, alter body chemistry, and destroy cells. A study on hepatitis A by the Epidemiology Journal showed that these polyphenols can even help prevent virus replication.

U.C. Davis studies involve the wine compounds tannins, quercetin, and resveratrol that are found in red wines. Their research indicated that tannin-rich red wine was able to reduce ADP-induced platelet aggregation and increase HDL cholesterol levels, suggesting tannins may help protect against heart disease.

1. Quercetin is a flavonoid in red wine grapes and other dark fruits. This may be one of the most powerful anticancer agents ever discovered, and has the ability to reverse tumor development by blocking the conversion of normal body cells to cancer cells. Its activity is intensified by the wine fermentation process and by naturally occurring flora in the intestinal tract. It improves pancreas function, and levels the release of insulin. Quercetin prevents some of the major complications of diabetes, including cataracts, blindness, nerve damange, and kidney damage. Since quercetin is an antioxidant and free radical scavenger, some doctors are using it in wine with HIV infections, because wine also relieves some of the pain and stress.

2. Resveratrol is a natural compound in grapes that fights fungal disease. Although alcohol in any form has been related to a reduced risk in incidence of heart disease, studies say that something in wine in addition to the alcohol is responsible for its cholesterol lowering benefits. Reservatrol may be that something, or at least play a role. Scientists believe it may be a key to wine drinkers' healthy cholesterol levels, and may also reduce other unhealthy fats circulating in the blood. Resveratrol also seems to prevent blood platelet aggreation and reduce blood clotting in arteries.