Science of Alcohol and Health
The Science of Wine and Health
The molecular composition of wine is distinct from any other class of alcoholic beverage. What makes it distinct is the presence of phenols: polyphenols, flavanoids,tannins and non-flavanoid phenols. Phenolic compounds are a class of chemical compounds found in tannins and pigments of grapes that act as anti-oxidants. They are abundant in red wine and have numerous health benefits.
Red wine is the only type of alcohol that has high amounts of these compounds. The level of astringency you taste in a red wine will give you a rough idea of the amount of compounds this wine contains. This is the basis behind the science of wine and health.
Flavanoids: Resveratrol, Anthocyanins, Catechins, Quercetin and Procyanidins. These molecules have been to be anti-oxidants, anti-mutagens, free radical scavengers and chelating catalytic metals. Because alcohol is a pro-oxidant, these compounds counteract its degrading nature.
Antioxidant mechanism of flavanoids: Flavanoids are acidic, meaning they can donate a hydrogen ion in solution. Thus, they neutralize molecules that cause oxidative damage; hydroxyl radicals, superoxide anions and lipid per oxidation. In addition to their effects on the cardiovascular system, antioxidants also inhibit the development of cancer by delaying the formation of cancerous cells from carcinogens.
Anti-mutagenic mechanism of flavanoids: Flavanoids have been studied in the context of their ability to suppress cancerous cells. Specifically, Resveratrol inhibits a gene named COX-2, which produces a product that favors growth factors in cancerous cells. Also, anthocyanins, which gives wine its color, inhibits the growth of tumors in human gastric cancer cells and colon cells.
Polyphenols: Red wine contains polyphenols that have beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system and immune system, as well as antioxidant, antihistamine, and anti-cancer properties. Notable classes of polyphenols include; catechins, anthocyanosides, proanthocyanidins and stilbenes.
Polyphenols and the Cardiovascular System: Polyphenols decrease clotting and blood pressure, increase HDL (good) cholesterol and stop the oxidation of LDL (bad) cholesterol. The mechanism of action helps explains how ployphenols reduce the accumulation of plaque in arteries from LDL consumption; lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of having a heart attack.
Polyphenols as antioxidants and anti-mutagens: there have been numerous studies that have indicated that polyphenols have powerful antioxidant capabilities as well as the ability to lower the risk of cancer. The anti-mutagenic mechanism of polyphenols helps to explain the beneficial anticancer effects on the lungs, skin, esophagus, oral cavity, pancreas, small intestine, liver, stomach, prostate and colon.
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