Monday, November 29, 2010


There has been lot of excitement amongst those unfortunate people affected by the silent killer disease Diabetes, by the recent bold declaration by scientists from a university in Vienna that wine drinking is more effective in controlling diabetes than the popular drug Rosiglitazone. Probably more than the patients the wine industry would have rejoiced over this claim because of potential increase in business that can be gained, if such a development is accepted universally. Well researched studies have brought to surface the empirical relationship between red wine consumption and a host of diseases including diabetes though conclusive evidence through human studies is yet to emerge. The beneficial effect of consuming moderate amounts of alcoholic beverages is an issue of discussion even to day and there appears to be some agreement regarding the ability of alcohol in dilating arteries and preventing potential clot formation that can result in myocardial infraction and cerebral stroke. The new claim purported to be based on limited studies may deserve some attention and if confirmed can open up a plethora of possibilities in evolving treating regimes for diabetes radically different from that prevalent at present.

Red grapes form an important base for manufacture of the famous red wines and there are are many varieties used for making different type of wines that flood the market. Though its alcoholic content is relatively low compared to hard liquor preparations, still the wines can contribute to calories because of the alcohol as well as sugar present in them. While many doctors find it useful for their patients to consume limited quantity of wine regularly from the health view, over centuries of history wine has captured a unique place in Christianity and amongst party goers. Socially women do not consider wine as an alcoholic beverage and on many special occasions consume wine while the men opt for hard liquors like whiskey, brandy, rum, gin, vodka etc. Attempts in India to exempt sale of wines from the purview of Excise Duty control are based on the perception that increasing production of grapes do not find adequate market and value addition through wine making can be economically rewarding.

Presence of polyphenols, antioxidants and other phytochemicals like flavonoids in red grapes makes it an exceptionally potent therapeutic material that can deal with health problems caused by oxyradicals generated in human body. The anti aging chemical Resveratrol present in wines from grapes is touted as a wonder substance that will benefit mankind in a big way. But the anti-diabetic activity attributed to red wine is presumed to be due to the action of epicatechin gallate and ellagic acid. Also during wine fermentation, it is common to add grape tannins and Oak tannins to boost the antioxidant activity. Red wines, when consumed regularly, are supposed to be helpful against many health afflictions like heart attack, anemia, blindness, some cancer types, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure conditions. It requires in-depth assessment of hard evidence being offered by some scientific studies for such claims before they can be universally accepted.

In diabetes high and fluctuating sugar levels in the blood need to be prevented to avoid serious consequences like tiredness, heart disease, strokes, blindness, irreversible nerve damage and kidney disease. According to the evidence offered by the Vienna scientists, chemical substances present in red wine some how bind the specific protein, Peroxisome Proliferator Activated Receptor Gamma (PPAR-Gamma) which is present in many tissues in the body primarily involved in development of fat cells, energy storage and in controlling lipid and glucose level in the blood. Such binding results in reduced fat and glucose in the blood and a 100 ml serving of red wine has sufficient chemicals to bind PPAR-Gamma 4 times more effectively than that achieved by Rosiglitazone. That is equivalent to 1.8 to 18 mg of this diabetic drug. What is missing from this study is regarding the identity of the chemical (s) in red grapes responsible for this phenomenon. Also not clear is whether this chemical is present only in wine or in the raw grapes also. The inability of many polyphenolic substances to get across the intestine into the blood and act on PPAR-Gamma complicates the scenario further.

It appears the way wine is consumed will make a difference as fast gulping does not confer some of the benefits claimed because the absorption of the active substance into the blood is 100 times more efficient through the mucus membrane in the mouth when the wine is consumed slowly with more resident time in the mouth. Some of the critics feel that the calorie contribution by the wine far outweighs the benefit of presumed reduction of glucose. One of the mysteries of this claim is the role of alcohol in contributing to the benefits adduced to wine. Grapes have plenty of poly phenolic materials and same is true with a beverage like green tea. Grapes also contain yeast when harvested and further yeast is used for alcoholic fermentation. Reservatrol is known to be a product derived from yeast and therefore raw grapes will not have the benefits attributed to wines. Whether same applies to the chemical (s) that bind PPAR Gamma is some thing that is not clear to day.

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