Ancient Roman Viaduct and Olive Trees at Nimes, Provence, France, 2019.
Whilst on our 2019 learning odyssey in France we had the privilege to eat whole, real food from local markets and restaurants. It was a contrast to see how the French approached nutrition regionally, from Provence to the Dordogne, the Loire northward to Champagne. One theme ran through the whole adventure, a variety for food staples, solid and liquid, that cropped up time and time again, that of tradition and nature. These products are also grown, produced, and imported into New Zealand. I’m particularly interested in red wine, extra virgin olive oil, green tea, and beer. These featured in my journey then and continue to do so to varying degrees today. It would be of interest to travel through the literature, focusing on their health benefits and recommended intakes to achieve health benefits.
If we sip the wine, we find dreams coming upon us out of the imminent night. D. H. Lawrence.
I have a penchant for red wine, in particular, Pinot Noir orientated red Burgundy. I have tried others with a varying degree of favour, perhaps Syrah and Merlot come close as runner-ups. I’ve been intrigued as to what benefits a glass of red wine might afford, as there seems so much negative health labelling, true or false, about their use, overuse or abuse. Associated with this is the controversy of the French Paradox, where the French statistically demonstrate improved health and longevity despite regular consumption of wine with the additional and confounding controversy regarding saturated fat. My curiosity is not to justify my own behaviour but to know what, if the literature indicates, are the benefits and the safe and most beneficial amounts to consume would be. Would it change my behaviour and attitude if new knowledge was revealed?
The vineyards of Sancerre, Loire Valley, France, 2019.
Moderate wine consumption, in particular red, is a characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet, has been studied intensively for the health benefits it affords to those who have been brought up in its midst traditionally or they that modify their diet and lifestyle towards it. Red Wine is composed of mainly water, carbohydrates, organic acids, minerals, alcohol, polyphenols, and aromatics. Specific substances within wine have significant positive effects on modern non-chronic communicable diseases, with a particular interest in its antioxidant effects for cardiovascular function and disease, endothelial function, lipid regulation, anti-inflammatory potential, some cancers, diabetes and glucose metabolism, and blood pressure reduction in hypertensive patients. Bioactive polyphenolic compounds appear to be the predominant player, in particular resveratrol, anthocyanins, catechins, and tannins. Additional research indicates improvements in cognitive decline, depression, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and gut bacteria.
Antioxidants, such as these, are found in abundance in red and purple berry fruits, the amount dependent on the variety, geographical location, time of harvest, maturity, and health of their growth. The richest red wine grapes are Pinot Noir and St. Laurent red wines. Resveratrol is a sirtuin activator, importantly benefitting and regulating nitric oxide, blood pressure, oxidative stress, and reactive oxygen species. Other antioxidants found in red wine are Flavonoids, rhamnetin, and malvidin, abundant in grape extract which elicits cardio protection.
Moderate red wine consumption appears to positively impact human health compared to abstainers with 5 to 15 grams a day associated with a 26 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) , a 35 percent risk reduction in total mortality, and a 51 percent less risk of CVD mortality, assuming intake was mostly red wine. Healthy intake is cause for much debate still, Sinkiewicz et al indicate that drinking three glasses of red wine every day had the lowest risk of cardiac events and mortality, also decreasing high blood pressure and myocardial infarction in men over the age of 65 significantly. Vilahor and Badimon looked at the Mediterranean Diet and red wine in association with cardio-protectivity suggesting daily red wine consumption of 0.15 litres for women and 0.45 litres for men, aiding reduction in inflammation, lipid metabolism, antioxidation, and endothelial function.
Wine is sunlight, held together by water. Galileo Galilei.
An interesting point for consideration is that is highly likely that red wine alone doesn’t solely contribute to health improvements, many confounding factors need to be considered, in particular with dietary and other lifestyle behaviours that positively and negatively contribute to health. It would be prudent to associate other beneficial foodstuffs like extra virgin olive oil to improved health outcomes. I had the opportunity to taste many gold medal samples in Lambesc, Provence, and was so impressed with the light, flavoursome taste and texture, and despite their price, I bought three sample bottles and stewarded them carefully back to New Zealand. What amount would constitute a health benefit and what are they?
Olives also possess bioactive polyphenolic compounds of various chemical structures, sourced from fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, roots, bark, leaves of different plants, herbs, whole grains, dark chocolate ( processed/fermented foods), as well as tea, and coffee. The health-promoting properties in olive oil including the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-atherogenic, anti-thrombotic, and anti-mutagenic properties. They are natural, synthetic, semi-synthetic organic compounds with over 8000 different polyphenolic structures known, several hundred isolated from edible plants. Unlike vitamins and minerals, polyphenols are not essential elements of primary plant metabolism but are the products of secondary plant metabolism that play critical metabolic roles in the human organism. The polyphenols of olive oil, however, are especially interesting for their well-established beneficial effects on human health and metabolism. The oils are obtained through mechanical and chemical extraction, and then are purified for additional refinement. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is a more expensive, low yielding form, having a delicate flavour, aroma, and light colour, with a higher polyphenolic structure. It consists mainly of the fatty acid triacylglycerols (98-99 percent) with monounsaturated oleic acid making up to 83 percent of weight to weight. Other components include palmitic, linoleic, stearic, and palmitoleic acids.
The olive tree is surely the richest gift of heaven, I can scarcely expect bread. Thomas Jefferson.
Consumption of EVOO rich in phenolic acid compounds has been linked to the promotion of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory responses. A minimal dose of 5mg/kg/day, the equivalent of 23gms of EVOO, has been claimed to be protective by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), protecting against lipid oxidation. Polyphenolic compounds bind to low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and protect them against oxidation, higher levels of which are considered a strong predictor of CVD, widely associated with metabolic disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Schwingshackl & Hoffman also report from systematic and meta-analysis of cohort studies an overall risk reduction of all-cause mortality of 11 percent, cardiovascular mortality 12 percent, cardiovascular events 9 percent, and stroke 77 percent.
Linked to the Mediterranean Diet, the importance of olive oil consumption impacts blood glucose, triglycerides, increases in high-density lipoproteins (HDL), and the amelioration of the antioxidant and inflammatory status of subjects, with decreases in C-reactive protein (CRP), as well as risk reduction of metabolic syndrome and lower levels of inflammatory markers related to atherosclerosis.
I have always been a big fan of tea, being English it was part of my introduction to hot beverages as a child, slowing sipping it, and when too hot carefully blowing on it to cool it down. Until recently I haven’t been as keen, a major health event has changed how my body reacts to milk, its caffeine sending me on an unpleasant high and a rapid journey to the toilet. Coffee does me a similar disservice. A gentle evolutionary journey into green tea, in particular high-grade Jasmine, has however grown on me, be it hot, tepid, or plain cold it is now welcomed. My body also seems to tolerate it more too.
Green tea is made from the leaf of the plant Camellia sinensis. It is a species of evergreen shrubs or small trees in the flowering plant family Theaceae whose leaves and leaf buds are used to produce the tea. The chemical composition of green tea is a complex of proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates like glucose, fructose, and sucrose with trace elements of calcium, selenium, fluorine, aluminum, and lipids, vitamins, B, C and E with additional sterols, caffeine, and pigmentation. Green tea contains polyphenols, flavanols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. Beneficial effects come reportedly from 3 cups a day, that being 8 ounces a cup.
A woman is a teabag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water. Eleanor Roosevelt.
It is said to possess anti-cancer, anti-obesity, anti-atherosclerotic, anti-diabetic, anti-bacterial, and anti-viral effects. These are related to the activity of epigallocatechin gallate, a major component of green tea catechins. Its natural caffeine stimulates wakefulness, decreases fatigue, and has diuretic effects. Theanine and y-aminobutyric acid act to lower blood pressure and regulate brain and nerve function. Ongoing research is looking into hepatoprotective and anti-diabetic effects and anti-metastatic and anti-cancer, anti-obesity, and anti-atherosclerotic effects.
Epidemiological evidence demonstrates that populations with a high intake of green tea catechin benefit from regulated and reduced body weight and fat, glucose homeostasis, and cardiovascular health. Human intervention studies have demonstrated improved glucose homeostasis gained from green tea catechins. In particular, in-vitro and in vivo research indicates better endothelial function and increased antioxidant activities and improved pressure control.
Beer is a “tasty beverage”, as a famous Hollywood meme would purport. I have a fondness for hazy beer but in comparison to red wine, olive oil, and green tea the evidence might suggest it to be the poorer cousin in terms of health benefits. The cliched image of the average beer drinker being overweight, and relatively unhealthy is one that needs to be challenged. I will try and advocate for a reappraisal of that perception.
Beer may bring some nutritional and medical health advantages. These include protein, B vitamins, and minerals like selenium and high potassium with low sodium, fibre and have antioxidants values equivalent to that of wine but specifically different in variety. Its antioxidant capacity is also related to its polyphenolic components with the benefit of blocking free radicals, decreasing significantly cholesterol and triglycerides in lager specifically, as well as improved lipid metabolism and increased antioxidant and anticoagulant activity. Further research suggests beer has the potential to aid stress alleviation with the additional effect of the hop derived bittering agent providing sedative and hypnotic benefits.
Beer, if drunk in moderation, softens the temper, cheers the spirit and promotes health. Thomas Jefferson.
Further research by a panel of international experts showed in a large evidence-based review the effects of moderate beer consumption of beer on human health. It indicated non-bingeing behaviour reduces the risk of CVD, that being 1 drink per women and 2 drinks per men, per day, similar to that of wine at comparable alcohols levels. Some observational studies have also demonstrated low to moderate consumption associated with a reduced risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In general, the research alludes to the benefits to human health coming from light to moderate consumption, originating from antioxidant, mineral, vitamin, and fibre components of beer, specifically in low or non-alcohol form.
The benefits of red wine, olive oil, green tea, and beer seem greatly associated with their effect regarding anti-oxidative and anti-inflammatory activities metabolically. Admittedly just looking purely at the health benefits and recommended intake is simplistic. It doesn’t take into consideration the negative health outcomes of alcohol over consumption. However, I do feel it was an appropriate approach to get a comparative snapshot of them all as beneficial fluid ingredients related to health. I would have considered both olive oil and green tea as a given but have learned more about the benefits that red wine and beer afford. It has also made me consider the relative health benefits of them all and amounts required for a health impact. I will continue to enjoy them all to varying degrees, and when in the mood, but am also more aware that they are a small part of a greater whole, in the improvement of our long term systemic and metabolic health.
Contribution of red wine consumption to human health protection. Snopek et at 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6099584/
Alcohol, coronary heart disease and stroke: an examination of the J-shaped curve. Wannamethee & Shaper, 1998. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9778595
Network meta-analysis of metabolic effects of olive-oil in humans shows the importance of olive oil consumption with moderate polyphenol levels as part of the Mediterranean Diet. Evangelia Tsartsou et al, 2019. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnut.2019.00006/full
Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols. Monika Gorzynik-Debicka, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/
The safety of green tea and green tea extract consumption in adults – Results of a systematic review. Hu et al, 2018. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0273230018300928
The Potential Role of Green Tea Catechins in the Prevention of the Metabolic Syndrome – A Review. Thielecke & Boschmann, 2009. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19147161/
Mediterranean diet: The role of long-chain ω-3 fatty acids in fish; polyphenols in fruits, vegetables, cereals, coffee, tea, cacao and wine; probiotics and vitamins in prevention of stroke, age-related cognitive decline, and Alzheimer disease. Roman et al, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31521398
Effects of moderate beer consumption on health and disease: A consensus document. De Gaetano, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27118108
Wine: An Aspiring Agent in Promoting Longevity and Preventing Chronic Diseases. Pavlidou et al, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30096779
Mediterranean Way of Drinking and Longevity. Giacosa et al, 2016. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408398.2012.747484?src=recsys&journalCode=bfsn20
Potential Health Benefits of Olive Oil and Plant Polyphenols. Gorzynik-Debicka et al, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5877547/
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: Lesson from Nutrigenomics. De Santis et al, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6770023/
Monounsaturated fatty acids, olive oil and health status: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Schwingshackl & Hoffman, 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25274026
Olive oil intake and risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality in the PREDIMED Study. Guasch-Ferre et al, 2014. https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1741-7015-12-78
Health-promoting effects of green tea. Suzuki et al, 2012. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22450537
Beneficial effects of green tea: A literature review. Chacko et al, 2010. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855614/
Health-Related Aspects of Beer: A Review. Sohrabvandi et al, 2009. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10942912.2010.487627
The Fluid Aspect of the Mediterranean Diet in the Prevention and Management of Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetes: The Role of Polyphenol Content in Moderate Consumption of Wine and Olive Oil. Ditano-Vazquez et al, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6893438/
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