At the turn of the 20th century there were many popular elixirs and tonics that were generally referred to as “snake oil.” Promoters of these liquid remedies touted their health benefits and they claimed that they could cure cancer or promote “better blood.” A few teaspoons of these liquids each day was supposed to bring you better health. These "cure-alls" were peddled by traveling salesmen or sold in retail stores and through mail order catalogs. A majority of these products contained alcohol, so if you didn’t get better physically, at least you felt better for a while. The reality is that, then as now, few things can actually provide long-lasting health benefits while tasting great.
But wine, and to a lesser degree, spirits and beer, actually do provide a multitude of health benefits. Thousands of studies have been conducted in dozens of countries to determine the benefits of moderate wine consumption. In the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, and in a Dutch study (that presented their findings to the American Heart Association in February), wine has been proven over and over to provide a multitude of health benefits. The majority of those benefits include longer life expectancy, lower cardiovascular risk, a decrease in type 2 diabetes and many others.
Moderate consumption means two to three 6-ounce glasses of wine for the average male, and one to two glasses for the average female, daily. Those non-average folks who consume liberal amounts of wine lose any inherent health benefit. Resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grapes, is believed to act as an antioxidant and blood thinner.
The American Association for Cancer Research recently conducted research showing that grape seed extract, the actual seeds and skins are a rich source of the antioxidant flavonoids that remove free radicals from cells. "The value of this preclinical study is that grape seed extract can attack cancer and how it works," said Rajesh Agarwal, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. "However, more investigation is needed before these chemicals can be tested as a human cancer treatment and preventative," he added.
Oil of life
If you're not into drinking wine, you can at least get a massage from the Ojai Valley Inn and Spa. They use grape seed oil for most of their massages. True, there's no detectable health benefit, but it does feel great. I often use rosemary-infused grape seed oil to cook with. The Ventura County Urology Medical Group offers a dietary supplement that contains grape seed pit extract, and more doctors are beginning to embrace the benefits of grapes. So, while wine and alcohol are not cure-alls, at least you can take comfort from the knowledge that wine (in moderation) not only pairs well with your meal, but it’s also good for your body.