Wine has been used as a medicine for more than four-thousand years. Ancient Sumerian clay tables and Egyptian papyri, as old as 2200 BC, describe a wide variety of wine based medicines. The Greek physician Hippocrates considered wine an essential part of a healthy diet and also as a disinfectant for wounds as well as a cure everything from lethargy to diarrhea. The Ancient Greek poet Eubulus also recommended the daily consumption of wine for good health but only in moderation. For Eubulus, moderation meant three bowls of wine with a meal. The Greek bowl, or kylix, contained about 250 ml of wine so three bowls would be the equivalent of a modern, 750 ml, bottle of wine.
The relationship between wine and health was first brought to Americans’ attention in a 1991 edition of the TV program 60-Minutes when Morley Safer discussed the “French Paradox.” The paradox was that the French who, as a nation, are well-known for enjoying a delicious cuisine high in fats, suffer from a very low incidence of coronary heart disease. The program concluded that although the French diet is indeed high in saturated-fats it also includes a healthy dose of red wine which obviously counteracts the effects of the fat. Following the TV program, sales of red wine in the USA almost doubled as Americans concluded that the increased consumption of Merlot would make them healthy, slim and, hopefully, as elegant as the French.
Even if drinking red wine does not make you look like Catherine Deneuve, recent research has shown that the health benefits are still not inconsiderable.
Memory Protection: Researchers at the University of Arizona tested women in their 70s and found those that drank wine daily scored much better in memory quizzes than those who did not drink wine. The powerful antioxidant resveratrol protects against cell damage and prevents age-related mental decline such as Alzheimer’s. In a study by Loyola University Medical Center, the researchers gathered and analyzed data from academic papers on red wine since 1977. The studies, which spanned 19 nations, showed a statistically significantly lower risk of dementia among regular red wine drinkers in 14 countries. The investigators explained that resveratrol reduces the stickiness of blood platelets, which helps keep the blood vessels open and flexible. This helps maintain a good blood supply to the brain.
This is the first of a three-part list of wine's health benefits.