Doctor James on Health and Wellness

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Drink your wine…or should you???

Posted by doctorjames on February 18, 2008

I just read a very informative article on resveratrol published in a monthly newsletter I receive in my office. The author is Dr. Mercola, but I will summarize what he said and the important things you should know about drinking red wine!

I know most of you have heard by know that red wine in moderation can be beneficial because it has antioxidant power. Antioxidants are basically things that keep you from becoming oxidized…like rust forming on a car…that is called oxidation. So, antioxidants prevent oxygen from causing oxidation due to free radicals. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that are missing an electron. Think of this molecule as a “bank robber.” It is constantly trying to steal someones electron (money in the case of a bank robber) to complete itself and make it happy. When it steals an electron it starts the process of free radical damage via oxidation.

Know, all free radicals are not bad. We actually need some free radicals in our body to support metabolic activities. It is the overabundance of free radicals from stressful living that we are concerned about. Free radicals can be produced by anything, and it is exercise, diet, and stress reduction that keeps just the right amount of them around for when we need them.

There is a chemical in red wine called resveratrol. It is a type of a polyphenol that is known as a oligomeric proanthocyanidin. It is an antioxidant with extremely powerful properties. In fact, it is shown in studies to be 50 times stronger than vitamin E and 20 times stronger than vitamin C! Actually, a man by the name of Richard Passwater Ph.D. has studied antioxidants for over 30 years, and has authored a book called Live Better Longer where he shows that OPC’s actually recycle vitamin C and act to prevent vitamin E from oxidation…essentially making them more effective by increasing their utilization

Antioxidants are important because they help to slow inflammation. Studies are leaning towards inflammation being the primary start of most of our major degenerative diseases. Antioxidants have proven to be effective in heart disease, cancer (have to be careful with breast cancer though because studies are controversial, I wouldn’t suggest resveratrol if you have a estrogen based tumor), diabetes, athritis, memory loss, and even erectile dysfunction! I won’t go into the specifics of why these OPC’s, or oligomeric proanthocyanidins, work for these conditions because it could get pretty lenghty, but as long as you understand the basic anti-inflammatory concept…then you understand the main parts.

I have told you all of that to tell you how the red wine you drink, or the supplement you take may not be effective because the way they were grown…you see, all of these supplements you take or the food you eat depends on the methods used when growing them. The reason grapes produce resveratrol is because it is a natural anti-fungal! Yep, you heard it right, it prevents fungus from attacking the grapes! WOW! The moral of the story is that if the grapes don’t “exercise” their “immune system,” you end up with grapes without much of this anti-fungal property because there is no reason to produce it! Isn’t this amazing…even grapes need to exercise their immune system. This coorelates to the human world…the kids with the most immune exercise (little childhood sicknesses, allowed to play in the dirt, pets in the house, etc.) are usually the ones least likely to be sick later!

How does this affect your red wine or the supplements that you take? The answer lies in the details of course. If these grapes that make up your red wine, or your supplement, are grapes from a farm where they use pesticides to prevent fungal infection, chances are the amount of resveratrol is little to none! On top of this, grapes that are grown in a dryer climate have less resveratrol then ones grown in a humid climate.

The point of this story is that organic is best! We all know it, but we don’t practice it. Yeah, I hear you, it is true that organic costs more, but if you begin to switch your diet to actual “real” food, and not processed junk, you will actually end up spending less because you eat less. The reason you eat less is because you feel more satisfied. Why? Because there is more nutritional value in the organic food! It all really comes back to common sense…doesn’t it?

So, enjoy your red wine in moderation, but make sure it actually contains resveratrol by making sure it is organic! As Americans, we are quick to jump to conclusions about any fad or health craze. Since the French drink red wine, smoke, and stay skinny, we have correlated this to consume more red wine because it protects us. Yes, this is true, but only if the wine actually has resveratrol in it. Just because the wine is red does not mean that it contains any of these antioxidants. Remember that there are many wine producers in France…hence most of them grow grapes organically…so, they are drinking quality red wine.

We have to remember that nutrition in general never, and I repeat never has anything to do with quantity, but it always has to do with QUALITY! The reason whole food vitamins are so effective and synthetic vitamins are not. This is a topic I will get to next week…stay tuned!

Your health and wellness advocate,

Dr. James R. Haakenson

P.S. Email me with any topic you would like to discuss. As always, send this on to your friends and family. Also visit for more health and nutrition advice.


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