The Effect of Small Amounts of Wine or Other Alcohol Drinks on Human Health and Longevity

Authors: Z. Kadaňka
Authors‘ workplace: Neurologická klinika LF MU a FN Brno
Published in: Cesk Slov Neurol N 2012; 75/108(5): 536-544
Category: Minimonography


Over the past 20 years, articles in press, and even scientific literature, have repeatedly been suggesting that regular consumption of small amounts of alcohol, in particular red wine, may have positive effects on human health. Much of the matter fuelling an explosion of such information, is derived from what has become known as the “French paradox”. This is based on the observation that French population has relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats. One hypothesis presented to explain this anomaly postulates that the answer may lie in the regular intake of wine with meals that is such an integral part of life in France: a very attractive explanation. The idea is supported by many epidemiological studies showing that mild alcohol consumption improves general mortality, especially in terms of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Thus it appears that abstinence from alcohol is worse than mild consumption. Apart from alcohol, wine contains a number of compounds, including polyphenols, that could be responsible for this cardioprotective effect through their antioxidant properties. Polyphenol resveratrol has been the most frequent subject of study in experimental research, using yeasts, drosophila, mice and rats, and it usually has positive effects on a number of parameters (mortality, longevity, cardioprotection, atherosclerosis). However, this effect has only been present at doses that are unthinkable to achieve in humans. Procyanidins are also polyphenols that may be found in wine, in larger amounts than resveratrol, and may potentially be responsible for cardioprotection. However, some fruits – apples, cranberries etc. also contain procyanidins in similar amounts. The author addresses the means and methods of reviewing the information in order to increase understanding of this topic and attempts to formulate practical recommendations based on sound evidence.

Key words:
alcohol consumption – wine – resveratrol – health – length of life


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