ALTHOUGH the harmful effects of heavy drinking are widely known and publicised, it is important to remember that a modest and measured intake of wine can be good for health.

In this context the beneficial effects of red wine have been recognised for a long time. A small glass of red wine each day help improve the health in general, better than a larger intake or no intake at all.

The skin of grapes are rich in ‘antioxidants’ which fight the ‘free radicals’ responsible for a variety of disorders eg atherosclerosis , certain types of malignancy, susceptibility to infections and development of brain degeneration /frailty and possibly Alzheimers. As the name suggests antioxidants prevent oxidation. Like metals developing corrosion and rust due to oxidation, the body cells also are prone to early deterioration due to ‘oxidation’. One may think how it is when we all need oxygen to survive, the same substance may cause harm. Well in this instance one is talking about complex activities at cellular level. Free radicals are also damaging and cause lots of harm to various systems. Antioxidants help fight the effects of such free radical at cellular level due to its bioflavonoids and resveratrol ( for those readers with scientific minds).

The National Institute of Ageing in the United States have recently emphasised the importance of these ‘biological activities’ in the causation of various age –related ailments as well as inflammation in general. It has been noted that the antioxidants in simple red wine do diminish the levels of ‘certain biological markers’ in the body thereby reflecting the control of some aspects of ageing process and inflammation.

It has been demonstrated that individuals consuming about 15g of alcohol or less than 2 units of alcohol (ie a small glass of wine) each day have a significantly lower risk of vascular disorders eg strokes, compared to those who take no alcohol at all or taking in larger quantities. That said, it must also be remembered we are talking about intake of very small measured quantity, large intake of alcohols, spirits is harmful and must be avoided always.

The other proven benefits of modest intake of red wine (with antioxidants) can be a reduction in the incidence of certain types of cancer, reducing the levels of ‘bad’ lipids in blood which may ultimately cause strokes or heart attacks and also keeping Alzheimers at bay.

These are some current thoughts put up by eminent academics and researchers and one mustn’t ignore them.

Incidentally antioxidants can be found in many other food products, grape skin seems to be a very rich source. Just to compare, to obtain similar quantity of antioxidant as in a small glass of red wine, one needs to take three glasses of blackcurrant juice or 12 glasses of orange juice.

One final point. Whilst all knowledge originates from a piece of research undertaken perhaps years ago, all such information must be taken seriously and such work should be repeated for further confirmation and scientific evidence. We all should watch the space with interest; the benefits of small quantities of red wine, however, are well established.

Arup Banerjee