The Doctor is In: New Developments in Wine & Health

As a retired physician and wine enthusiast, I follow all the peer-reviewed scientific literature on wine and health. Here are summaries of recently published studies.

Red Wine May Be Healthy For Your Teeth: Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Research from universities in Madrid, Spain, and Zurich, Switzerland, indicates that the antimicrobial properties of red wine may prevent periodontal disease and dental cavities that can result in tooth loss. The scientists exposed a biofilm model of human dental plaque containing bacteria to red wine, de-alcoholized red wine, red wine with grape seed extract, water, and an ethanol solution. Red wine with added grape-seed extract was the best antibacterial agent. And red wine, either de-alcoholized or not, was only slightly less effective. This study suggests that moderate red wine consumption could prevent dental cavities, and a grape seed extract could be incorporated in the formulation of oral care products to prevent caries.

Wine May Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease in Diabetics: Diabetes Care
Scientists at the University of Turku in Finland studied the effects of alcohol use on cardiovascular health in type 2 (adult onset) diabetics. They found that patients who reported moderate alcohol consumption, compared with abstainers, had a lower incidence of cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction (heart attack), stroke, less kidney and retina microvascular disease, and lower all-cause mortality. The most benefits were observed in those who drank wine. Those who reported heavy alcohol consumption had an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality.

Resveratrol Supplements Improve Short-term Memory: Journal of Neuroscience
Researchers from Charité University in Berlin studied the effects of resveratrol on overweight people. Resveratrol is a polyphenol compound found in red wine that has been studied extensively for its potential health benefits. The study found that those who took resveratrol supplements had better short-term recall. This is the first study to show a connection between the red wine compound and cognition in overweight adults. The study participants who took resveratrol also showed reduced levels of a blood sugar marker indicating there might be a link between sugar metabolism and brain memory.

Wine May Keep Bugs Away: Presented at National Conference on Urban Entomology in Atlanta, Georgia
The researcher at University of Nebraska-Lincoln exposed adult bed bugs, which survive on human blood, to samples of 200-proof ethanol mixed into expired blood and a control sample containing no alcohol from the Nebraska Blood Bank. He found that bed bugs preferred alcohol-free blood to blood with alcohol in it. Since there is a link between blood intake and reproduction rates, bugs exposed to alcohol-containing blood laid fewer eggs. The implications for pest control are not clear, since even the bed bugs fed the alcohol-laced blood laid enough eggs to cause an infestation. Further studies are planned.

Binge Drinking More Dangerous than Previously Thought: PLOS ONE
Scientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School found that a single episode of binge drinking in healthy individuals can lead to a rapid increase in blood endotoxins (toxins contained within the cell wall of bacteria that are released when the cell is damaged), which in turn can cause the body to produce immune cells involved in inflammation and tissue destruction, particularly in the liver. The finding of bacterial DNA markers in the blood indicated that bacteria had left the gut and entered the bloodstream. Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more drinks for women, in about two hours, and is dependent on body weight. Women had higher blood alcohol levels and circulating endotoxin levels compared to men. The lesson here is that binge drinking is never a good idea and can lead to lasting liver damage.

For more reading about the relationship between wine, alcohol, and health, I suggest you read “The Good News About Booze,” by Tony Edwards, published in 2013.