Red Wine, Heart Disease, Hungry Sharks and Knights in Shining Armor
What is so special about wine? What is it that makes it potentially more protective against coronary heart disease, and perhaps other diseases, that other forms of alcohol?
In recent years, scientists have concluded without doubt that many human diseases such as heart disease, cancer and aging process is caused or stimulated by a ravenous group of chemicals called free radicals. These highly charged little villains prowl body and attack healthy cell membranes through a process that is called oxidation. In this scenario, there is however a knight in shining armor that jumps to rescue and purges these ever hungry little killers. The name of our crusader is antioxidants. Without getting too technical, oxidation process in our bodies is crucial for health, without it, for instance, we would not be able to extract energy from our food. But if there are too many free radicals in our bodies this can be harmful.
Our body has its own defenses against free radicals, in form of enzymes that are able to turn hungry little sharks into harmless water. However, sometimes our body’s natural defense mechanisms can’t cope. Other times, external events can cause huge increases of free radicals within our bodies, such as x-rays, cigarette smoke and exposure to toxic substances. At times, this surge of free radicals can swamp our defenses and illnesses such as radiation sickness may take place.
So what does all this have to do with heart disease?
Low density lipoproteins, commonly know as “bad” LDL, can penetrate and gather against inner walls of our arteries, under certain conditions, forming fatty streaks and plaque. Taken alone, LDL particles aren’t so dangerous it seems, however, when attacked by free radicals they turn into dangerous and somewhat aggressive cells, capable of actually penetrating and harming smooth inner walls of our arteries. This process is called oxidation. Oxidized LDL is known to be culprit in stimulating atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.
Antioxidants, as name suggests (anti-oxidants) can help stop oxidation process, which are results of free radicals doing their stuff. Most antioxidant research has been carried out on vitamins (A, E, beta carotene) but quite a lot of work has also been done on healthy benefits of red wine. While most research on red wine has been done in relation to coronary heart disease, it seems that benefits of wine don’t stop there.
Red wine and Coronary Heart Disease
Red wine contains a wide range of flavanoids; these are chemicals that give wine its particular taste and character, making one different from another. Many of these flavanoids act like antioxidants. Perhaps forerunner of wine research was carried out by a certain Serge Renaud, who discovered French Paradox, which suggested that wine was decisive factor in protecting people in southern France from their very high fat diets and ultimately coronary heart disease. Even if these people do eat large quantities of high fat cheese, pâté, and salami they have some of lowest rates of heart disease in world.