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Ringing in the New Year with Red Wine

Much of the world will be celebrating the New Year on December 31, and while many will be toasting with champagne, others will choose a libation being touted for its antioxidant value – red wine (Vitis vinifera, Vitaceae) (See HC 091223-463).

The cardioprotective effect of red wine has been attributed to the antioxidants present in the skin and seeds of red grapes. Red wine contains resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant, which has been found to protect the heart and arteries against the effects of saturated fat. The flavonoids and saponins in red wine also help to protect the heart against cardiovascular disease. Red wine, when consumed in moderation, can increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, help prevent the formation of blood clots, and may protect the arteries from damage caused by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Purple grape juice has also been found to aid in the reduction of blood clotting. Red wine also contains other antioxidants which may slow the aging process and prevent a number of degenerative illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.

Red wine, including nonalcoholic red wine, can harden tooth enamel thereby helping to prevent tooth decay. Hardened enamel makes teeth more resistant to Streptococcus mutans, the bacteria which lives on teeth. The polyphenols in red wine can also prevent gum disease and reduce inflammation of the gums.

Dryer red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Pinot Noir, have been found to contain the highest amount of flavonoids.

However, celebrating in excess can be detrimental to the body and can result in damage to nerve cells, the liver, and the pancreas. Excess drinking may also lead to a risk of malnutrition. As with everything, moderation is the key.

Lori Glenn,  Managing Editor