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In the chain of research just described wine was grouped with beer and spirits as a type of alcohol. This was because most scientists assumed that the ethanol in alcohol was the primary ingredient that reduced heart disease. However there had been a new line of research that had been examining the health benefits of wine consumption as separate from beer and spirits. This line of research was inspired by the French Paradox.
The paradox has to do with the finding that the French from Toulouse have a 57% lower rate of heart disease than do the Americans from Stanford although they consumed a high fat diet. Indeed the French consume the same amount of saturated fats as do Americans, have higher levels of the bad cholesterol in their blood, but have a significantly lower level of heart disease.
In 1991 Renaud, one of the scientists who initiated these studies, was interviewed upon American public television. When asked why the French werenÕt dying of heart disease as frequently as Americans although they ate a diet high in saturated fats, Renaud said that it had to do with drinking habits. He said that French consumed wine with meals while Americans didnÕt. On TV he stated that no other drug has proved as effective against heart disease as the moderate intake of wine. His studies showed that 2 to 3 glasses of wine per day reduced Heart disease by 40%. Renaud claimed in effect that ÔWine counteracts the negative impact of saturated fats.Õ
The American government with their scientists demanded studies to back up his claim. The American Medical Association was not going to allow its hundreds of expensive heart disease medicines to be replaced without some serious documentation.
It was forthcoming. In 1995 Groenbaek, a Danish researcher, inspired by RenaudÕs discoveries, came out with the results of an important study. He looked at data from 14,000 men and women from Copenhagen. Wine got a great report card, while Spirits didnÕt fare so well.
Here are some of GroenbaekÕs specific findings. Those drinking 3 to 5 glasses of Wine per day had 60% less Heart disease than those who didnÕt drink any alcohol. To support this finding it was also found that wine consumption in Denmark had risen 30% over a 20-year span. In that same time period heart disease had fallen by the same amount.
What about Spirits? Not good. Those who drank one to two drinks of Spirits had 16% more heart disease than those who didnÕt drink. Those who drank 3->5 drinks of Spirits had 35% more Heart disease than those who donÕt drink. These studies clearly indicated that wine was good for the health of your heart while spirits were bad for it. It was obvious that wine and spirits were different in their effect upon health although they both contained alcohol. Remember that scientists had previously assumed alcohol to be the active ingredient in fighting heart disease.
In even more surprising studies it was found that wine drinkers had less disease overall than non-drinkers. Also non-drinkers had less disease overall than whiskey drinkers. Those who drank 1->2 glasses of Wine per day had 40% less Death from all causes than non-drinkers. Those drinking 3->5 glasses of Wine had 50% less Death from all causes than those who didnÕt. Beer was about the same as not-drinking, while those drinking 3->5 drinks a day increased their chance of dying from all causes by 30%.
These studies illustrate why the American studies would reveal mostly negative effects to alcohol. In America whiskey and beer are the drinks of choice, as we shall see, while wine is minor. So in America the study of alcohol consumption is the study of hard alcohol and beer, while in France and Italy the study of alcohol consumption is the study of wine. Therefore their results will be radically different, because these studies have shown that in general wine is good for health and spirits are bad for health.
As confirmation of the conclusions of these Danish studies, in 1999 a study came out of Britain based upon 7000 men over a period of 17 years. Wine drinkers had 30% less heart disease, and 20% less disease over all than those who drank beer and spirits. Although wine, beer and spirits all contained alcohol their health benefits were very different. Again wine was found to be healthy, while spirits were unhealthy. Obviously the effects of liquor and wine on health need to be studied separately.
Then in 1999 another study came out of France, supporting the same conclusions. It was based around 36,000 men in Eastern France. As expected those who drank wine had 40% to 50% less heart disease than those who drank nothing. But surprisingly those who drank one to three glasses of wine per day had 20-22% less Cancer than those who drank other forms of alcohol or none at all. Most surprising however was the finding that those who drank two to five glasses of wine per day died of all forms of disease by 1/3 less than those who drank no wine. Thus it seemed that wine, was not only healthy for the heart, but it also reduced the rate of cancer. On the other side hard alcohol increased the risk of cancer as well as the risk of heart disease.
Here are a few more studies that support the theory that wine is good for health. Studying data from France and Denmark it was found that drinking 3 to 5 glasses of wine per day reduced heart disease by 1/3 to 2/3 over those who drank beer and spirits. In the same study it was found that up to three glasses of wine per day reduced the risk of cancer by 1/5 over those who drank no alcohol. Even up to 5 glasses of wine per day reduced the cancer risk of 1/10 over the non-drinkers. As a topper the French and Danish citizens who drank 2 to 5 glasses of wine a day had 25% -> 50% less chance of developing any of these serious diseases.
In another related study, it was shown that those who drank wine 3 to 4 days per week had 30% less Heart disease than those who drank 1 day per week or less. Thus it seemed that regular consumption of wine was healthier for your heart than irregular consumption.
Before changing your lifestyle too drastically to protect your health, let it be pointed out that the countries that were studied have diets that are high in saturated fats, i.e., England, Denmark, and France. If you donÕt eat a diet like this then the studies probably might not apply to you. But if you do eat a diet that is high in saturated fats then you might think about drinking wine, especially red, as we shall see, to protect your health.