Fruit of the Vine
2002 Teresa Kellerman

An article has been published recently on MSN's WebMD site about the benefits of white wine for lung function: Massive Antioxidants in Beverage Have Positive Effects on Overall Health. Under the categories of "Staying Well" and "Healthy Men," this article by Jeanie Davis examines recent research done at University of Buffalo's school of medicine. Just what we needed - another study trying to prove how "healthy" alcohol is supposed to be.

The article states, "One glass of wine per day equaled a 1.5% higher lung function, adding one or two more years to the person's lifetime; 3 glasses a day improved lung capacity by 3%." To this the head researcher Dr. Holger J. Schunemann adds, "By that measure, 6 glasses of wine should bring a 4% improvement." How's that for logic? Why stop there? Take it a step further and say, 12 glasses of wine should bring an 8% improvement. Let's see, that would add 10 to 20 years to a person's life. His line of reasoning would lead some to think that perpetual consumption of wine might bring immortality. Ah, the fountain of youth! If this were true, then why do heavy drinkers look so much older than their non-imbibing peers?

"Other studies have shown that the more wine you drink, the greater the effects," he tells WebMD. But he's not suggesting that everybody drink more wine or more alcohol. "There are all sorts of negative effects from alcohol drinking." Oh good! It would help if reporters and authors point out some of the risks of consuming more than one or two drinks a day, such as increased risk of cancer, accidents, violence, child abuse, etc. We should not forget the most devastating effect of alcohol consumption - neurological damage to the child of a woman who consumes alcohol during pregnancy.

This researcher's suggestion that 6 glasses of wine per day could possibly be healthy is NOT supported by his study, and totally ignores the government's recommendation that women limit their alcohol intake to one drink per day and that men limit their alcohol intake to no more than two drinks per day. See NIAAA's publication "What You Don't Know Can Harm You".

The researchers also admit that other factors might contribute to the results of the study, such as the fact that white wine drinkers are less likely to smoke and are more likely to eat a healthier diet than those who drink beer or "hard" liquor. They're also more likely to be women.

Grape juice and fresh grapes also have a good supply of antioxidants, and without the health and safety risks of drinking alcohol. Another article on the WebMD site, The Buzz About Grape Juice, touts the benefits of grapes. "Purple grape juice contains the same powerful disease-fighting antioxidants, called flavonoids, that are believed to give wine many of its heart-friendly benefits." The health report also points out something important that was omitted by the first article: Alcoholic drinks won't improve the function of blood vessel linings like grape juice will. Additionally, alcohol will generate "free radicals" (unstable oxygen molecules that can actually cause damage to blood vessel tissues), thus undoing the benefits that wine's antioxidants might offer.

More good news about grape juice comes from a study done at the University of California that shows that the antioxidants in grape juice linger in the body longer than do those in wine. The purple grapes have more antioxidants than the red or white ones.

That reminds me of visits I made to my grandmother's house when I was a child. In the late summer, my Grandma and my mother would make grape jelly and fresh grape juice from the produce gleaned from her little backyard vineyard. When fresh grapes were not in season, Grandma always had a bottle of Welch's grape juice chilled and ready for her favorite grandchildren. I always knew Grandma was a smart woman! Maybe that was her secret to living a long and healthy life.

Here are my favorite low-calorie grape juice recipes:

Here's to Grandma - Salud!
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