Wine: The benefits to our health

κρασί και υγεία

According to palaeontologists, vines thrived before the ice age in the polar zone: Iceland, northern Europe, north-west Asia, even in Alaska. The glaciers however restricted its spread, isolated one variety from the other creating in this way its many varieties. The ancestors of the current vine moved to the warmer zones of central – eastern Asia and central Europe.

The ancient Persians, the Semitic nations and the Assyrians are believed to be the first known wine growers. Next, the art of vine cultivation passed to the Egyptians, the Phoenicians and the inhabitants of Greece. However, the Mediterranean was not the only area where vine was cultivated during this period, as there are references of winegrowing in ancient China, as well. It is not known how the Greeks learnt the art of winery, but they are most likely to have been engaged in viticulture before 1700 BC. Most probably, those who taught them would be the eastern peoples (Phoenicians, Egyptians). Other references speak of wine coming from Thrace.

Wine trade was one of the main activities of the ancient Greeks. There were laws to protect the quality of wine, as well as anti-competition laws (for example, in Thassos, there was a relevant confiscation legislation of the wine transported by foreign ships when they approached its harbor). The most famous wines were those of the northern Aegean: Limnos, Thassos, Lesvos, Chios, Ikaria and Samos. After the classic era, the wines of Rhodes, Kos and the other Dodecanese, Thira, Naxos, Crete and Cyprus earned special reputation.

The beneficial effect of wine on health has been recognized by physicians for centuries. Hippocrates recommended special wines as antipyretics, diuretics or wound disinfectants, but also as dietary supplements as early as 450 BC.

Wine is a mild sedative that reduces stress and tension. As part of our daily diet, wine acts as an appetizer and gives the body energy, digestive substances as well as small amounts of vitamins.

Daily, moderate consumption of red wine acts as a protective and preventive measure against coronary heart disease and many forms of cancer. This is due to flavonoids, catechins and tannins of red wine, substances that act as antioxidants to prevent free radicals from damaging the cells. Some special ingredients of flavonoids have recently been shown to prevent arterial hardening.

There are also ingredients in grapes and wine called resveratrol and quercetin that enhance the immune system, protect against heart disease and prevent carcinogenesis. A recent study by the American Journal of Physiology proves that resveratrol prevents the development of a protein that leads to cardiac fibrosis which reduces the pumping capacity of the heart in cases of stress.

A Harvard study on factors influencing aging has shown that resveratrol expands cell life and acts as an anti-aging factor. Wine can preserve and protect the mental functions of the elderly. Many studies have shown that moderate and regular alcohol consumption can prevent or delay the development of degenerative brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Other studies have shown that drinking wine reduces the risk of digestive ulcers, and relieves the body of the bacteria that cause it. On the contrary, excessive wine consumption and simple alcohol consumption increase the risk of peptic ulcers.

A research at the Danish University of Aarhus showed that resveratrol contained in the grape skin can alter the production of certain components of the adipose cells. Resveratrol had beneficial effects and was able to improve the metabolic profile of obesity in humans. At the same time, the researchers in their report in the International Journal of Obesity claim that it also had an anti-inflammatory action. As the Danish researchers explain, the results show that resveratrol drastically reduces the possibility of various adipose tissue pre-inflammatory conditions becoming inflammation. They also add that resveratrol, when it enters the body from the mouth, is absorbed and metabolized soon, but its local concentration in various areas of the body is still unknown.

Researchers in Urology Clinics and Public Health Organizations in England claim that red wine can significantly improve the sexual activity of women. According to studies, women who drank one to two glasses of red wine a day had better scores in questionnaires rating sexual activity and pleasure. Researchers admit that women’s stimulation and pleasure mechanisms are much more complex than men’s, but red wine improves the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system and thus contributes to the sexual health of both sexes. Approximately 800 women aged 18 to 50 participated in this study, excluding women who drank more than two glasses a day, smokers, as well as those with sexual problems. Their sexual health was assessed on the basis of questionnaires drawn up by specialists. Researchers found that women who consumed two glasses of wine a day had a score of 27.3 compared to 25.9 of those who drank one glass and 24.4 of those who did not drink any wine at all.

The benefits of wine always arise with moderate use by healthy adults and if it is combined with food. As more than 400 studies worldwide have shown, healthy people who drink moderate amounts of wine regularly, live longer. The only exception is women in the pre-menopausal period, who should not consume any alcohol because they are at risk of breast cancer.