Rethinking The Brain Benefits Of Red WineWe’ve been told for some years now that red wine, in moderation, because of the ingredient resveratrol, has heart benefits and may even extend a healthy life. This information allowed people to have a glass of red wine (or two or three) feeling as if they were doing something good for themselves.  Not so fast.

The researcher, Dr. Dipak K. Das, who conducted the research, culminating in 2007 at The University of Connecticut, that had all the nightly news programs and medical journals proclaiming the health benefits of red wine, has been found guilty of 145 acts of data fabrication.

Turns out that an anonymous allegation of “research irregularities” led to a three year internal  investigation of Dr. Das’ lab which resulted in  a 60,000 page report concluding the falsification of data.

In an article published by CBS news on their website, Red wine no fountain of youth after all?,  Dr. Richard A. Miller, professor of pathology at the University of Michigan, told CBS News of red wine, “If it is good for you, it’s almost certainly not because of the resveratrol. People who bought the story for the last 10 years have been fooled.”

Dr. Marie Pasinski,  staff neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and faculty member of Harvard Medical School, says, in her book Beautiful Brain, Beautiful You: Look Radiant from the Inside Out by Empowering Your Mind,  that the studies supporting the claim that red wine is good for your heart and brain were “observational” having been conducted through self-reported questionnaires which may have been severely flawed.  She concluded this before and separate from the accounts of fabrication noted above.  About the resveratol studies, she says “Although studies did show mice that were given hefty doses of resveratrol were healthier and lived longer, an article in the New York Times pointed out that the average 150-pound person would need to drink 750 to 1,500 bottles of red wine a day in order to get the equivalent beneficial dose!”

She concludes that drinking alcohol, even in moderation, is unhealthy because it is a known neurotoxin.  In excess, alcohol causes damage throughout the nervous system and kills brain cells, in particular, in important memory areas.  Alcohol may be even more damaging in the developing brains of teenagers who tend binge drink. I sure killed a few brain cells in my college days.

She points out that, for women, even low to moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of cancers of the breast, liver, mouth, throat, and esophagus.  According to Pasinski, alcohol is not part of a brain smart diet.  Period.  “Alcohol is not good for us, even in small amounts.”

image source:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/neumeyer/

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  • Oh well, there goes my glass of red wine tonight. At least people who choose to drink will know the effects of their drinking (as if they didn’t know already. TV advertisments back in the 50’s or 60’s use to state that smoking was good for people and had supposed doctors on the ad to support that statement. Hopefully today we are becoming more transparent and people are learning the tructh about what we eat and drink. Thanks.

    • Debbie Hampton

      A brain injury and alcohol just do not go well together at all. I have not drank at all in years. I spend all of my time trying to optimize my brain. I am not going to do anything to compromise it. Just not worth it. I do miss my red wine though! I think it is the atmosphere and the mindset which I miss more than the actual substance. I have found other ways to achieve this, but the memory sure romanticizes that glass of wine.

  • I did kind of watch this topic go back and forth over the years from “It’s good for you” to “It’s bad for you” like a ping-pong game. I certainly would agree with you if you live with any kind of injury that there’s little chance of an upside.

    I haven’t spent any decent amount of effort doing actual research or reading, so I thank you for providing this information. All I can contribute is theoretical hypothesis and opinion based on my own experience, which might be valid for some, but is rarely applicable to people as a whole.

    Brewed and fermented drinks have been part of human culture for a very long time. In times and places where water is or has been unsafe to drink, it is a healthier alternative. Beer and wine have uses in various kinds of ritual, and in gathered groups they have a social function and can reduce inhibitions between strangers. There is also an real elevation of the culinary experience that can be achieved through the proper pairing of a wine with food. Overall, I believe it becomes a method of rapid stress reduction. Better methods would include meditation, or changing the structure of your life, like doing less. However, not everyone is creative enough to think of unusual solutions, so they do what most people do.

    Drinking is not good for everyone, and excess isn’t good for anyone. I think it’s difficult for Americans to estimate its value (if there is value) because unlike people in Europe and Scandinavia, we don’t grow up drinking in moderation. Here, we prohibit it and sternly repress any introduction to drinking until, at a legislated age, we suddenly throw the doors wide open and encourage it, with unevenly enforced laws against the operation of machines. I think that kind of bipolar, delusional approach just leads to more binge drinking.

    Personally speaking, the intoxicant I have the most trouble with is anger. I really have to watch myself, because I can get really high and out of control.

    • Debbie Hampton

      Wow, Mikey, you wrote another blog! 🙂 I totally agree with you. By restricting alcohol until a certain age, I do think it encourages overindulging and binge drinking when people become of legal age. If it was part of the culture and moderate use was modeled as in other countries, it would change the whole relationship with alcohol.

      I also agree with you that its primary function is one of relaxation. I do not drink at all now and do many other things for relaxation that you suggest, but I still miss those first few sips when I could feel the wine spreading warmth and liquid relaxation through my veins. It was like my body going “ahhh” and melting.

      I do think it is a personal decision as to whether an individual partake’s or not. When there is any kind of brain challenge already present, as in my case, I would not advise it at all.

  • What about the studies that show that modest drinkers live longer than teetotalers? There have been many and they have not been associated with red wine. Are these all false too? Seems to me that the old rule, “everything in moderation” holds true for alcohol too.

    • Debbie Hampton

      Ellen, thank you for your comment. While I am certainly no expert on the subject, I would think the studies to which you refer might fall under the “observational” ones referred to by Dr. Pasinski which are believed to be flawed. I cannot speak to and am not familiar with the subject of anything other than red wine. The information that we have been given over the last decade that red wine is good for you has been proven false. The benefits of alcohol, if there are any, may have to do with the socializing and the situations in which they are consumed. It is Dr. Pasinski’s professional opinion that none is best. Each person has to decide what is right for them.

  • Redwine Experience

    I share the some opinion of Ellen Clark that having things in moderation will have its share of benefits and having too much will be bad for one self. However even if I am a red wine lover I try not to have a glass unless needed to.

    • Debbie Hampton

      We all have to decide what is appropriate for us as individuals in our own life given the information we have available to us. The information undoubtedly confirms that any amount of alcohol is not a benefit for us. I respect any one’s choice to do what they feel compelled to do.

  • Hello Debbie and thanks for this thoughtful perspective. I’m not a scientist (but I did spend 20 years of my life with one – does that count at all?) One thing I did learn about science – and specifically about scientific research – is this:

    “For every PhD, there is an equal and opposite PhD.”

    This can lead to considerable confusion for those of us poor schmucks who are not scientists. Moderate red wine is good for the heart. No, wait, wine is bad. Coffee is good. No, wait, coffee is bad. Hormone replacement therapy is good. No, wait, HRT is bad. Calcium supplements are good. No, wait . . .

    One only has to browse the excellent website Retraction Watch to catch the latest humiliating scientific scandal about yet another newly-discredited, poor quality published research paper that’s been publicly removed from the scientific literature – yet, ironically, may still continue to be cited for decades in subsequent papers.

    As a dull-witted heart attack survivor and blogger, I have to say that I’m now leery about covering “news” about emerging cardiac research these days. Instead, I prefer to do research about the research.

    How big was the study sample? Did the researchers study men only, women only, or both women and men (and was the sample group equally divided between genders or significantly more one-sided?) Who funded the research? Was the study done on animals only? Was the study merely presented at a conference, or published in a peer-reviewed journal? Was this a randomized controlled double-blind study? Or was it, like virtually all observational food-related consumer studies, based largely on self-reporting questionnaires – a notoriously unreliable form of amassing data? More questions like this at: http://ethicalnag.org/nagging-101/

    And as the Das scandal recently indicated, even what we might consider high-quality research still carries a large element of human nature with all our flaws and foibles. The media then makes this far worse, by jumping on every new press release with sensational headlines as if what’s being reported is actually The Capital-T Truth.

    My own conclusions: Read the fine print. Read the conflict of interest disclosures of all study authors. Follow the money.

    As for red wine . . . alas, none of us are able to accurately claim that “the information that we have been given for decades that red wine is good for you has been proven false”.

    In science, very little is actually “proven” in fact.

    • Debbie Hampton

      Carolyn, thank you for commenting. You raise all very good points. My post is just one piece of information. It is not law and I never want to suggest that my words substitute for someone thinking on their own. I applaud your efforts to get more information about a topic and decide for yourself. I would encourage others to do the same.

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  • jennhaun

    I’m just not convinced exactly where you are getting your information, nonetheless great subject. Need to commit a little while examining additional or even being familiar with much more. Thanks for magnificent information and facts I became in search of this info in my quest.

    • Debbie Hampton

      Jenn, if you follow the links provided in the blog, they will take you to the sources of my inforation. Also,uch more info is a vailable online.

  • Chris good

    My cardiologist said 4-6 oz of red wine per night was good for you because it’s a vaso dilator. So causes blood vessels to relax and lower blood pressure… Never mentioned resveritrol…

    • Chris, thanks for pointing this out. There are many different views and evidence to support them. You have to decide what you believe and do what works for you.

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