Page last updated: Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Review of Annals of New York Academy of Sciences Vol 957
by Dr.Philip Norrie
The Conference "Alcohol and Wine in Health and Disease"(with speakers and delegates from all over the world) was held in Palo Alto California, USA, in April 2001 and the New York Academy of Science published a summary of the conference in Volume 957 of its Annals last year. Edited by Dr Dipak Das from the University of Connecticut in the USA and Dr Fulvio Ursini from the University of Padova in Italy the book contains in their entirety all the papers and posters presented in the conference. Therefore the book presents a complete up to date coverage of many aspects of alcohol and wines biochemical and physiological aspects on the human body, with a lot of focus on the oxidative damage and wines antioxidant benefits.

Some interesting public health issues (i.e. how much should we drink? how often should we drink and when should we start drinking?) were raised by papers that presented experimental research data and epidemiological findings which looked at the effects of alcohol and at non alcohol ingredients or compounds in wine. New concepts were also introduced and discussed, with the health benefits of alcohol for coronary heat disease being expanded to incorporate the whole vascular focus, ischaemic stroke, ischaemic peripheral vascular disease and ischaemic renal disease.

The role of alcohol and non-alcohol related components in wine were discussed with research on the new area of focus, namely endothelial benefits, with antioxidants helping vascular endothelial integrity and function. A healthy endothelium results in much less formation of atheromatous plaques and subsequent vascular disease and clotting that can lead to ischaemic obstruction of the vessel.

A major concern for clinicians is the rise in obesity and diabetes and research into the reduction of insulin resistance by wine’s antioxidant components was presented. Syndrome ‘X’ where patients have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and obesity, which leads to higher rates of vascular disease and cancer, needs to be screened for routinely. Preventative health measures, such as drinking wine in moderation, which can help reduce some of the risks, should be welcomed, when for example the authorities in Australia estimated that there were 500,000 undiagnosed diabetics in a population of 20 million.

A vast range and area of topic were presented and discussed (for example the benefits of wine on cancer, dementia, kidney disease and wound healing), however the public health issues discussed at the open discussion at the end of the conference were not included in the book.

The summary of the conference is presented by Mr Stampfer (the Professor of Public Health at Harvard Medical School) who chaired the discussion along with a panel of eminent speakers, which included Curtis Ellision (Professor of Epidemiology at Boston University).The general consensus of opinion was that we would be doing the health service and our patients a disservice if they were not informed of the extensive data and evidence that now exists of the health benefits of consuming wine in moderation. Alcohol should also be consumed in moderation (10-40g/day) on a regular daily basis as the antioxidants responsible for a lot of the health benefits cannot be stored and need to be replenished every day. It was agreed by most at the conference that there is no down side from consuming wine in moderation, unless there was a contraindication such as family history of alcoholism, religious beliefs or other health problems that could be made worse by consuming alcohol.

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