Latest Wine Health Research from Cardiologist Dr. Steven R. Gundry

We wanted to share this newsletter from Dr. Steven R. Gundry to his patients at the International Heart and Lung Institute.  He was one of the first health experts to endorse our Moderation Wine Glasses.  Thanks Dr. G!

Summer Newsletter 2012

Hello Fellow Gundrites!

Most of you know I am a fan of Red Wine as a drug delivery device for Phytochemicals (these are plant compounds that activate or inactivate our genes as well as give the friendly bacteria in our intestines (remember the “Gut Buddies” letter?) some great stuff to eat.  As such, you find Red Wine on the approved list for Diet Evolution.  While most of you know about the polyphenol Resveratrol in red wine, a new compound has also been discovered that blocks fat cell’s ability to develop, according to a Purdue University study.

Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science, and Jung Yeon Kwon, a graduate student in Kim’s laboratory, reported in this week’s issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry that the compound piceatannol blocks an immature fat cell’s ability to develop and grow.

While similar in structure to resveratrol – the compound found in red wine, grapes and peanuts that is thought to combat cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases – piceatannol might be an important weapon against obesity. Resveratrol is converted to piceatannol in humans after consumption.

“Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells,” Kim said. “In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis.”

Over a period of 10 days or more, immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, go through several stages to become mature fat cells, or adipocytes. Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis, blocking insulin’s ability to control cell cycles and activate genes that carry out further stages of fat cell formation. Piceatannol essentially blocks the pathways necessary for immature fat cells to mature and grow.  Just another reason to drink red wine!

Yet, many of my patients got concerned two years ago with a national study that indicated an increased risk of breast cancer among women who drank alcohol.  As most of you know, that study did not control for type of alcohol, nor did it control for weight, smoking habits, etc.  This year however, researchers at Boston University tested the effects of red wine and white wine for preventing the conversion of testosterone into estrogen (so called aromatase inhibitors).  Just as an aside, aromatase inhibitors are used to treat women with breast cancer to block the effects of estrogen.  So, women were asked to drink only white wine for a month and then red wine for a month, and reverse, etc.  Levels of estrogen fell during the red wine months, but remained the same during white wine months.  Why?  Because some of the phytochemicals in red wine are aromatase inhibitors!  White wine has none!  And sure enough, new studies reveal that women who drink red wine have lower incidences of breast cancer, even women who carry the notorious BRCA 1 gene.

But not so fast.  Other researchers have cried foul, showing that it’s the amount of alcohol that you drink is probably the critical factor.  In other words, as I say in Diet Evolution, alcohol is a poison, and the rule “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger” applies.  Simply put, it appears that red wine, as a delivery device for phytochemicals and polyphenols (resveratrol and quercetin are the two most interesting in red wine) as well as the small amount of alcohol it contains in a glass is good for you; but a lot of red wine, or any other alcohol is bad for you.

Did you know that experiments around the world and involving many different alcoholic beverages and when they were consumed have yielded very consistent and interesting findings about how much alcohol is too much?  Sorry to say, but more than 2 drinks of an alcoholic beverage per day will consistently and reliably raise blood pressure!  Ouch!

Okay, a few caveats.  First, timing of the alcohol consumption has some effect.  Drinking alcohol before a meal or separately from a meal had the strongest effect on long-term blood pressure elevation; whereas alcohol consumption with a meal had less of an effect.  While researchers have noted that red wine contains Potassium that has a noticeable effect on lowering blood pressure, studies on French soldiers, who drink a lot of red wine, still confirm the high blood pressure effect.  Sorry about that.

Okay, so more than two drinks are bad for you.  So, what constitutes a “drink?”

A jigger (1 oz) of “hard liquor”, vodka, gin, scotch, etc, is equivalent to 4-5 ounces of wine, is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer.   That’s what constitutes a drink or glass!

Invariably in my practice in Palm Springs and Santa Barbara, people have a very liberal interpretation of what constitutes a glass of wine or a cocktail.  So what to do? The marvelous folks at “Mr. Picky,” a wonderful wine rating couple from Santa Barbara and the Central Coast of California have come up with what they call the “Moderation Glass”.  Discretely etched on the side of the glass are “bubbles” denoting 4 oz’s, 6 oz’s and 8 oz’s of wine.  Imagine my surprise when my usual “glass” of wine was between 6 and 8 oz’s!  Oops!

So let me do a little math for you.  A bottle of wine is 750 mls of liquid.  There are approximately 25 ounces in a bottle of wine.  There are 30mls per ounce, so 4 oz’s of wine is 120 mls, or ½ cup.  An official glass of wine is a half a cup!  6 oz’s is ¾ of a cup; 8 oz’s is a cup. If your idea of two drinks involve a typical 6 ounce pour, that’s 12 ounces or ½ bottle!  If your idea is 8 ounces in each drink, that’s almost 2/3 of a bottle!  Officially, you’ve had 4 drinks of alcohol, twice the limit that will give you high blood pressure!

Not that any of us is worried, but here’s another helpful tidbit.  Alcohol is a special carbohydrate that is metabolized a bit differently than sugars and starches.  Much of alcohol is immediately “burned” as heat: that’s why the room suddenly gets warm after you start drinking.  Any additional calories are converted in your liver into triglycerides, with a by-product being the production of Uric Acid, which causes Gout.  Ouch!  And those triglycerides are stored as fat, remember?  And you make more LDL cholesterol to carry that fat into storage!  So if weight loss is an issue, let’s get out our “Mr. Picky Moderation Glasses” and watch where we fill our glass up to.

The glasses can be found and ordered on the Mr. Picky website:   You can also read my high praise for them and their efforts on their site.

So for now, enjoy your summer with a glass or two of red wine, as long as that glass is not too full!

To your good health!






Steven R. Gundry, M.D., F.A.C.S., F.A.C.C.
Founder and Medical Director
Center for Restorative Medicine
The International Heart and Lung Institute
555 E. Tachevah Drive, 3W-103
Palm Springs, CA 92262
(760) 323-5553

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