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Wine: The cure for everything?! November 12, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in Ben Franklin, wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben can’t claim to compete with the likes of Founding Gourmet Thomas Jefferson (see Silence Dogood’s post tomorrow for more on that) when it comes to wine appreciation (or consumption, for that matter). But a glass of a good (or at least drinkable) red never goes amiss. And recently, claims of red wine’s being heart-healthy make it possible to at least attempt to outface self-righteous teetotalers (at least, as long as they haven’t read—correctly—that red and purple grapes and grape juice are just as beneficial, if not nearly as much fun).

As a red wine drinker (“appreciator” and “enthusiast” are a bit too elevated for my relatively untutored palate), I was at least hoping that some part of the health claims might be valid. But I was unprepared for an article I found in the September 2012 issue of a magazine called Departures (www.departures.com) by Colman Andrews, “I’ll Drink to That!” The article, which pointed out that everyone from the Apostle Paul and Hippocrates to today’s preeminent researchers recommended drinking wine for its health benefits, went on (after recapping the work of various medical specialists) to make the following claim:

“Moderate drinking—variously defined as from one to three drinks a day—may measurably reduce the risk of ischemic stroke, thyroid and kidney cancer, lymphoma [both Hodgkins' and non-Hodgkins'], osteoporosis, arthritis, peripheral artery disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, dementia and the common cold.”

In other words, it’s good for what ails you. Various researchers and medics through the ages have also claimed that it could be used as an antiseptic, an anti-anxiety medication, a cure for urinary tract infections, eye disease, stomach upset, and fever, and a surefire way to boost weight loss and longevity. (I had actually read a separate news story not long before that noted that, with the exception of Seventh-Day Adventists, all groups with notable longevity consumed between 4 and 5 glasses of red wine a day. But this surely isn’t true of two notably long-lived populations, the Japanese and the Hunza, so our friend Ben took the article with a glass of wine, I mean, grain of salt.)

Modern science has isolated at least two components of red wine that might boost its healthful properties, phenols (antioxidant compounds) and the much-touted resveratrol, the longevity booster. But as Mr. Andrews points out, research has also found that you’d have to drink 150-200 bottles of red wine a day to consume a measurable amount of resveratrol, by which time you’d have long since died of other causes, as rock history makes abundantly clear. But at least one enterprising vintner is now fortifying his wines with additional resveratrol, so there’s hope. And studies have shown that drinking wine increases “good” (HDL) cholesterol while reducing blood clotting.

Whatever the case may be for medical claims, there’s no question that a glass or two of wine with dinner promotes congeniality, stress reduction, and relaxation. (As our hero and blog mentor, the great Benjamin Franklin, was known to remark, “Wine is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” a comment the equal-opportunity Dr. Franklin was also known to say about beer.) That’s good enough for our friend Ben. Bottoms up!

Whiskey: The new miracle medicine. September 10, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben and Silence Dogood were recently stunned when our friend Rob, a longtime journalist turned journalism professor, informed us that drinking whiskey was good for the heart. “I’ve interviewed doctors about this, and it’s true,” he asserted.

Now, far be it from us to doubt the word of the almighty press, much less the word of the medical establishment or the word of an old friend, but this struck both of us as a bit far-fetched. So later on, we consulted our good friend Google in hopes of discovering the truth. Obviously, red wine has gotten tons of press for its heart-healthy antioxidants, presumably the reason why wine-drinking cultures with traditionally high-fat cuisines still manage to have far healthier hearts than Americans. (Wine enthusiasts who could finally justify their passion through the all-important health stats were doubtless crushed when it finally came to light that grape juice had the same effect.) But whiskey?

Sure enough. Or, at least, whisky, as in Scotch whisky (without the “e” of Tennessee whiskey and Kentucky bourbon whiskey). Turns out that a joint Scottish-Danish study found that drinking a big old dram of Scotch once a week had far more heart-protective benefits than red wine, but only if you knocked back about three or four times as much as a typical pub serving and only if you drank it once a week.

Call me a skeptic, but our friend Ben had a few questions about this research. First, it was sponsored in part by the Scotch Whisky Research Institute. Doubtless research funded by the McDonald’s Research Institute would find that eating Big Macs promoted longevity and research funded by the Monsanto Research Institute would find that pesticides and genetic engineering were good for your health. Second, this study was carried out in 1998, and to my knowledge there have been no followup studies to confirm or deny. And third—good news for Scotch drinkers—I could find no information at all about why the researchers had concluded that, to get the health benefits, one should only drink Scotch once a week. Whatever the case for any of this, I invite you to draw your own conclusions.

Sadly from our own health perspective, Silence and our friend Ben are bourbon rather than Scotch drinkers, and to our knowledge no study has ever been done proclaiming the health benefits of bourbon. But wait… perhaps the Bourbon Institute is sponsoring a study…

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