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Do You Believe Research Findings Even When Reported About Wine?

When you read about the results of a new study or research project, do you take it as a proven fact that is indisputable? Or, do you take it in with some degree of skepticism. Because I am interested in wine I enjoy reading research about benefits of wine. But, now I realize not all research is created equal; there seems to be ulterior motives to consumer oriented research. Based upon peoples experiences they are most likely to assess or be judgmental about research findings in areas in which they have some knowledge. Often, findings from research find their way into product claims-will reduce wrinkles, improve your joints, etc. The most ubiquitous industry for making claims is in personal care/cosmetics. Claims that can be subjective and/or are based on superficial studies, are most common.

It is hard to pick up a paper or view the results of some study reported on TV without seeing proclamations of some profound study findings; some new, others negative and some offer hope for a better product. The questions that begs asking therefore: Is all research and reported findings to be taken as fact? Are there biases in research? Is all research based upon scientific protocol? To add perspective to these questions we need to recognize that every interest group uses research/studies/findings/hypothetical results to promote an agenda or cause. This is true in politics, government, healthcare, conservation, environmental, farming, business-where there is something to be gained there will be a study launched with results to justify something.

Obviously, a research or study project has the result of proving or disproving something-beneficial or not. It is important to note, not all research is scientific.

I do not want to belabor the point that not all research findings are information you want to base your life on or that are intrinsically harmful; sometimes findings are just fun to read about as entertainment. Let me give some examples. Many years ago, I decided to get into the anti-aging products business, I established some product concepts and objectives as to how these products were to help consumers. I started out looking at ingredients that were advertised in the trades as accomplishing some of the objectives for each product. I wanted to see the research on these ingredients. That was when I discovered the research was all conducted by the companies selling the ingredient. Bottom-line, the research was not indisputable and none were independently controlled studies. Product benefits, whether vitamins or personal care, have findings that are not solid.

How often have we made a lifestyle change based on lifestyle oriented research initiated by a group with an unreported agenda? For example, 20 years ago there was a great deal of information in the media from medical groups that said consumers should not drink more than 2 cups of coffee per day. Now doctors are saying coffee is a great anti-oxidant and consumers should drink all the coffee they want, if for no other reason than it has health benefits. What changed?

Another quick example, after drinking orange juice daily, doctors are now telling adults to cut down on orange juice consumption because it can cause increases in diabetes.

Also, consumers have been told to change oil in automobiles every 3,000 miles. Now, due to improvements in oil additives, some in the conservation community says we should only change oil every 5,000 miles; all based upon research findings. Whose research, I ask?

So, why are most published research findings false? This is a question, presented and answered by John P. A. Ioannidis of Stanford University. Here are his explanations.

· Small test field. Conversely, larger test samples are more expensive.

· Relationships within a group doing the research.

· Too much flexibility in designing and defining test/research/studies.

· When there are financial and personal biases involved in sponsoring or directing a study.

· If there are too many teams taking individual components of a study.

· Lack of confirmation of studies.

“It can be proven that most claimed research findings are false,”, says Dr. Ioannidis in PLOS, a Peer-Reviewed Journal.

This discussion about research/findings has been interesting to me because I write a lot about wine and the enjoyment of wine. I also like the history of wine and what makes wine-well, wine! And yes, there is also a close relationship of wine to its effect on our bodies. And, as of late, there seems to be a lot of information or findings about the health benefits of wine; occasionally we see negative findings also. Now, the question that begs an answer: What do we believe, if anything about the benefits of wine?

Here are some published claims about wine consumption to think about.

Anti-Aging

On May 3, 2017, there was an article published about university researchers in Australia and from Harvard University. They talk about the benefits of an anti-oxidant compound found in wine that has anti-aging properties. The article proclaims, researchers have defined an already known naturally occurring compound in the body that can speed DNA repair which, in effect, is about anti-aging and combating disease.

The compound known as NAD+, plays a key role in regulating protein interactions that control DNA repair. There have been articles about NAD+ for about 15 years but connecting it to wine is recent. But the compound is also critical in the winemaking fermentation process. Further, as we age, our body produces less and less of NAD+ and anything that boost that compound is desirable. (NAD+ is found also in resveratrol-an anti-oxidant.)

So, can we assume we should drink more wine? Is this a good example of, more is better? Probably not but this is more supposed research to prove wine is good. Even if this is flawed research I like it.

Brain Stimulation

Research by a Professor Shepherd believes (not proven, but researched) that flavors, color and aromas of wine stimulate activity in the brain. This in turn influences a wine drinkers emotional state too.

According to Professor Shepherd, “there is evidence that drinking wine engages more of the brain than enjoying music or even solving a challenging math equation.” Now that is some sound research as far as I am concerned!

Cognitive Impairment

According to published findings in Frontiers in Nutrition maybe (maybe? -how’s that for sound research) some of the compounds found in red wine could have a protective effect on the brain? “A team of researchers at the Institute of Food Science Research in Madrid, Spain, have studied the process by which compounds in red wine have an anti-aging effect on the brain.” Note this only says they researched this phenomenon.

The antioxidants in red wine, can be beneficial in delaying the onset of cognitive impairments in aging and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers report.

Here again resveratrol could help prevent age-related memory loss.

Again, the quality of the research does not mean a statement of fact.

Reduces Arterial Stiffness

On May 8, 2017, Jack Woodfield reported on new research findings that “Red wine compound could reduce arterial stiffness in type 2 diabetes.” Here is another example of findings coming into the public domain that is not based on fact, but the consumer wants to believe the reporting as fact.

Stiff arteries cause the heart to work harder and stiff arteries is a result of diabetes. The article goes on to report that researchers from Boston University has found that resveratrol could reverse stiff arteries. Mind you, this is not fact, but information researchers are dispensing unrelated to sound research.

This research also touches on the research involving NAD+, where resveratrol (containing NAD+) “helps delay aging and development of certain diseases. This effect occurred once resveratrol activated a gene called SIRT1 (which is activated in the body by the NAD+ compound),” according to Dr. Hamburg, M.D.

The article does conclude that more research needs to be conducted. Again, do wine consumers look at “feel-good” type results to justify wine consumption.

Breast Cancer

This is a subject that shows the difference of opinion. I use the word opinion because, like the pointed established earlier, research is more often flawed and is very much influenced by many factors that do not relate to science.

As reported in Lifescript.com in 2008, Dr. Edward Geehr reports the following. “Lately, you may have heard a lot about the benefits of moderate amounts of wine. It’s true that a daily glass of wine may reduce heart attack risk. But that protection doesn’t extend to breast cancer; risk increases with more than one drink a day.” Am I the only one who wants to understand where the one glass a day for women and 2 glasses of wine per day for men is the break-point for safe consumption?

HealthDiaries.com has a slightly different view on wine consumption relative to breast cancer. Moderate consumption of red wine is believed to lower the risk of breast cancer. However, drinking more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per day appears to increase the risk of breast cancer in women, so moderation is key.

Prostate Cancer

For men, HealthDiaries.com reports that four or more glasses of red wine per week has been shown to reduce men’s overall risk of prostate cancer by 50% and the risk of the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer by 60%. Again, no source of such research is given, but we are willing to accept it because we see it in print.

The consumer is left to extrapolate how to react to the “reported findings”.

The value of drinking wine is in the eye of the beholder. Ask yourself:

· Is there enjoyment in consuming wine?

· Have I explored the risks?

· What are the benefits and how honest and fact based are the reported benefits?

· What for me is excess consumption?

Most research done on wine and wine related compounds that relate to healthful benefits was done by Dr. Jack Masquelier in France. He conducted research on the anti-oxidants in grapes and grape seeds. Most of his work has been substantiated on the impact of wine anti-oxidants over 60 years of research and peer reviews and replicated research. He conducted this research in the 1940′s and died in 2009. The two major benefits of wine and wine related products that his research has proven scientifically is to improve heart and vascular health. Together with the now famous “red wine” Professor Renaud, Masquelier provided great scientific contributions to understanding of the health benefits of red wine.

I wanted to present a summary of the benefits of wine. In this world of “fake news” there is also “fake research/findings”, it is best to employee a degree of skepticism.

My advice is that wine is not a medicine or at best it “could” be a health food. Cheers!

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