Red wine’s effect on health unclear

Anyone who has lived 40 years or so has read all of the conflicting information about what will and will not lead to cancer.

Even more confusing, as modern medical science continues to evolve, there are plenty of flip-flops on what will and will not cause cancer.

Alcohol, and in the case of this column red wine, can contribute to health problems. According to the American Cancer Society, red wine also can raise your cancer risk.

But let’s not beat up the red grapes just yet. The topic will be red wine, but you can really substitute the word “alcohol” for most references to fermented grapes written here.

Alcohol can get you in a number of ways — from damage to body tissue, effects on other body chemicals, effects on hormones, body weight and much more, according to the ACS. But the organization also realizes many Americans enjoy a glass of red wine with dinner.

The recommended alcohol limit is no more than two drinks per day for men and one for women. And ladies, that’s because of the smaller body size.

There is little debate that alcohol can be a bigger risk for mouth and throat cancers, liver, colon, rectum and even breast cancer.

And what about the effect of alcohol during cancer treatment? For the most part, in limited consumption, there is no issue, according to a report from Cancer Research UK. The bigger issue is a change in taste buds and the acidic taste of wine, which may no longer be palatable.

But isn’t wine supposed to be good for your health? There are theories and some research suggesting red wine can have health benefits, particularly for heart health. But much of this remains debatable.

Popular Science has even weighed in on red wine and notes red wine is an antioxidant and that it has anti-tumor properties. Reservatrol is the chemical in red wine some have targeted as an anti-cancer agent. A University of Missouri researcher has published information suggesting a connection that reservatrol can make some cancer cells more susceptible to radiation treatment.

But any discussion of Reservatrol has to be taken with a grain of salt. It all started with the “French Paradox.” The term emerged in the 1990s noting the French appetite for a high fat and red wine diet but less disease.

Popular Science accurately reported in a November 2013 website post that Reservatrol has been widely researched but with very little human testing. And one of the biggest problems with Reservatrol as an anti-cancer agent is that there is hardly a town drunk tough enough to consume enough red wine to get the necessary Reservatrol through its most natural source — red wine grapes.

The point of the column is to not read too much into the big headlines about red wine making you healthier. Don’t read too much, either, into the evils of the red grape.

For seven years, this column has promoted drinking good wine and learning how to appreciate it. We also have to pause once in a while to remind all consumers that even the best things are appreciated most in moderation.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Reach Howard at hewitthoward@gmail.com.

One great fact from that report was it takes two to five grams of Reservatrol for clinical tests. For a human to get that much Reservatrol, they would have to consume about 2,500 glasses of wine.

The point of the column is to not read too much into the big headlines about red wine making you healthier. Don’t read too much, either, into the evils of the red grape.

For seven years, this column has promoted drinking good wine and learning how to appreciate it. We also have to pause once in a while to remind all consumers that even the best things are appreciated most in moderation.

Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes about wine every other week for more than 20 newspapers. Reach Howard at hewitthoward@gmail.com.