Friday, June 11, 2010

Is Wine a “Functional Food”?

In taking a closer look at wine and health, one might ask if wine should be considered a “functional food.” If you’re not familiar with the term, a functional food is any natural or preserved food that in some way promotes wellness and/or helps prevent disease. Functional foods typically deliver health benefits in addition to nutritive value through active ingredients such as phytochemicals─plant compounds─that offer disease-protective and/or therapeutic benefits.

Many scientific studies have indicated that moderate wine consumption helps protect against cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, lung disease, many forms of cancer, neurological diseases, and cognitive decline, among others. That’s quite a list, but the medical research is solid and comprehensive (see referenced articles on wine and these individual diseases at http://winewellnessandlongevity.blogspot.com)

By now you may know that the health benefits of wine are largely due to the phytochemicals it contains, specifically polyphenols. Polyphenols include four categories of compounds: phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans, and stilbenes. Wine─particularly red wine─is a rich source of a variety of phenolics, flavonoids, and resveratrol, a class of stilbenes. In fact, did you know that a mere 4 oz. glass of wine may contain up to 200 different types of polyphenols?

These compounds work synergistically to enhance wellness and minimize your risk of a wide range of disease states, especially within the context of a healthy, produce-rich diet. Wine is a whole food, and despite many current claims, no pill purporting to contain a few of these compounds can ever deliver the collective benefits wine offers. Clearly, wine in moderation meets─and exceeds─the definition of a functional food.

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