A number of articles about the benefits of red wine receive a level of encouraging emphasis that tends to catch our imagination. Recently the Journal of the Wine Spectator reported that California Pinot Noir as well as other red wines, and the red wine components known as resveratrol, are effective killers of certain bacteria known to infect the lungs. These wine components are known to be potent antioxidants and have been considered healthful in asthma and related disorders. A body of accumulating evidence in a respected medical journal, Atherosclerosis , indicates that wine can be "bacterial busters" and deals with some of the common infectious processes of the lungs. These bacteria can affect the arteries of the heart and contribute to heart attack. But the mechanism by which wine, resveratrol and other polyphenols exert their biological effect in heart and lung disease has not been completely worked out. It is a fact that lots of people have been drinking wine for a long time.
Many marvel over the "Mediterranean Diet", which includes high fat and carbohydrates but seems not to cause the same devastating cardiovascular complications as seen in this country. The protection is attributed largely to the high consumption of wine. Many Mediterranean cultures drink wine at all meals. This is a key component of their regular diet. Maybe they know something that we don't know.
I marveled one day, when having lunch at the train station in Florence, Italy when an old gentleman rode up on his bicycle, got his tray of bread and cheese and a liter of wine. He read his newspaper, ate about half a loaf of bread, a pound of cheese, drank the entire liter of wine, got back on his bicycle and rode swiftly into the crowed streets. I wondered what his blood alcohol might be! But that isn't the point! He was happy, content, enjoying life and rode off with a smile into the crowds.
In any case, wine is pleasant, stimulates the appetite, and often provides conviviality in conversations, which become "lubricated" by products of the fermented grape. My own view is that wine is healthy and should be taken regularly in moderation. I do not recommend that non-drinkers suddenly take up wine consumption and never advise use of alcohol to the extent of any noticeable impairment.
I'll be in touch next month.
Thomas Petty, MD
Professor of Medicine,
University of Colorado Health Sciences Center
Snowdrift Pulmonary Conference