Can a Glass of Wine a Day Keep the Doctor Away?

wine-glass-medI’m sure we’ve all seen the myriad headlines over the past few years touting the health benefits of wine.* But can including wine in your daily diet really make a difference? I’m pleased to report that, in moderation, indeed it can. Extensive studies on the topic disclose some pretty impressive findings suggesting that wine—especially the red variety—may promote a longer lifespan, improve mental health, protect against certain cancers, and provide benefits to the heart.

Here are just some of the benefits that you get from drinking wine:

The Benefit: Promotes Longevity

The Evidence: A Finnish study of 2,468 men over a 29-year period, published in the Journals of Gerontology, 2007 showed that wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than those consuming beer or spirits. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Slows the Aging Process

The Evidence: Researchers from Harvard Medical School reported that red wine has anti-aging properties. Specifically, resveratrol (from the red grape skin) was the compound found to have the beneficial effect. Their findings were published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Source: medicalnewstoday.com

The Benefit: Reduces Heart-Attack Risk

The Evidence: Moderate drinkers suffering from high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than nondrinkers according to a 16-year Harvard School of Public Health study of 11,711 men, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, 2007. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease

The Evidence: Red-wine tannins contain procyanidins, which protect against heart disease according to a study at Queen Mary University in London, published in Nature, 2006. Wines from Sardinia and southwest France have more procyanidins than other wines. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Reduces the Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

The Evidence: Research on 369,862 individuals studied over an average of 12 years each, at Amsterdam’s VU University Medical Center, reveals that moderate drinkers have 30 percent less risk than nondrinkers of developing type 2 diabetes (as published in Diabetes Care, 2005). Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Lowers the Risk of Stroke

The Evidence: The possibility of suffering a blood clot-related stroke drops by about 50 percent in people who consume moderate amounts of alcohol according to a Columbia University study of 3,176 individuals over an eight-year period, published in Stroke, 2006. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Decreases the Risk of Cataracts

The Evidence: Moderate drinkers are 32 percent less likely to get cataracts than nondrinkers; those who consume wine are 43 percent less likely to develop cataracts than those drinking mainly beer according to a study of 1,379 individuals in Iceland, published in Nature, 2003. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Cuts the Risk of Colon Cancer

The Evidence: Moderate consumption of wine (especially red) cuts the risk of colon cancer by 45 percent according to a Stony Brook University study of 2,291 individuals over a four-year period, published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2005. Source: foodandwine.com

The Benefit: Lowers the Risk of Developing Dementia

The Evidence: A Loyola University Medical Center study, published in The Journal of Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, reported that moderate red wine drinkers had a 23 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to nondrinkers. Source: medicalnewstoday.com

The Benefit: Reduces the Risk of Depression

The Evidence: Drinking wine may reduce the risk of depression, according to researchers from several universities in Spain. Data was gathered on 2,683 men and 2,822 women aged from 55 to 80 years over a seven-year period. The findings were published in the journal BMC Medicine. Source: medicalnewstoday.com

*The health benefits come from moderate wine consumption, defined by the American Heart Association as one to two four-ounce glasses a day.

6 Mood-Boosting Superfoods

Forget the candy, potato chips and ice cream—science shows that these are the real comfort foods.

“Just as premium gasoline makes for a smoother-running car, brain-friendly foods can make for a smoother mood,” says Oregon-based dietitian Elizabeth Somer, author of Eat Your Way to Happiness.

That’s because food is the No. 1 source of the chemical building blocks that regulate emotions and increase well-being. Want to brighten your outlook? Add the following six ingredients to your diet.

Tomatoes

The molecules that give this fruit its characteristic red, orange, or yellow hue are carotenoids, antioxidants that counteract the damage wrought by free radicals, which destroy mood-protecting fats in the brain.

A 2011 study from the National Institute on Aging found that older people who filled up on carotenoid-rich foods were 28 percent less likely to be depressed. And “people with high blood levels of carotenoids have lower rates of memory loss and dementia,” says Drew Ramsey, M.D., a Columbia University psychiatrist specializing in nutrition and coauthor of The Happiness Diet.

Happiness-boosting Rx: One serving (about a cup) of tomatoes a day—either fresh or in tomato-based sauces or low-sugar ketchup or salsa.

Whole Grains

Noshing on carbs promotes the release of insulin, a hormone that stimulates serotonin ­production, Somer says. (To avoid a blood sugar spike, choose whole grains over the processed variety.) Avoid eating carbs and proteins ­together; doing so can block the effects of serotonin, says Somer.

Happiness-boosting Rx: Two cups of air-popped popcorn or whole-grain graham crackers.

Fatty Fish

More than half of the human brain is composed of fat, and two types seem to be crucial to mood: the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA, found in fish such as salmon and mackerel.

Last year, scientists analyzed the blood of U.S. veterans who had committed suicide and found far lower levels of DHA than were found in veterans who reported no suicidal feelings. And in December 2011, a ­research review by the New York State Psychiatric Institute concluded that EPA can significantly reduce the symptoms of depression.

Happiness-boosting Rx: At least two servings of seafood, especially fatty fish, each week.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate—particularly the dark kind, which by definition consists of at least 60 percent cocoa—is thought to increase the brain’s ­serotonin levels. Chocolate may also increase mental alertness: In a 2010 study, British researchers asked 30 people to drink cocoa drinks or similar-tasting ­cocoa-free drinks and then gave them a series of cognitive tasks, like solving arithmetic problems. Those who drank the cocoa performed significantly better and felt less ­mentally drained afterward.

Happiness-boosting Rx: One ounce of dark chocolate a day.

Spinach

These leafy greens are loaded with folate, a B vitamin the brain uses to make several mood-regulating chemicals, including serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. (Other folate-packed foods include lentils and asparagus.) “Up to 50 percent of people with depression are folate-deficient,” says Ramsey. A 2010 report from the American Psychiatric Association even noted that folate may be effective in treating depression.

Happiness-boosting Rx: One to two cups of spinach, or another folate-rich food, each day.

Red Meat

We know, we know—red meat has its detractors. But it’s an incredibly good source of iron, which the brain needs to make mood-regulating chemicals like dopamine; in fact, people who are iron-deficient may be 50 percent more likely to become depressed than those with higher iron levels.

Ramsey recommends meat from grass-fed cows; it contains more happiness-promoting omega-3 fats than beef from conventionally raised cows. Stick to lean, unprocessed cuts—more roast beef, fewer hot dogs. (Vegetarian? Though it’s harder to absorb iron from non-meat sources, the best bets are beans, dried fruit, and whole grains.)

Happiness-boosting Rx: Two small servings of red meat each week—a total of 8 to 12 ounces.

Article written by Melinda Wenner Moyer for Parade Magazine.

 

Can drinking wine save you from dementia?

As reported by the Daily News & Analysis this week,  scientists have found that a daily cocktail or glass of wine could help delay dementia.

Their research has shown that alcohol is an anti-inflammatory (inflammation promotes Alzheimer’s) and raises good HDL cholesterol, which helps ward off dementia.

Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina found that older people who had eight to 14 alcoholic drinks a week had a 37% lower risk of dementia than non-drinkers.  Editor’s note:  It is eight to 14 drinks a week — not a day.

However, adults who go on occasional binges face a higher risk, reports the Daily Mail.

According to a Finnish study, adults who binged in midlife at least once a month — drinking, for example, more than five bottles of beer or a bottle of wine at one sitting — were three times more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s, 25 years later.