Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Heavy Metal Wines

There are a good number of studies out there about wine that speak about the various health benefits of wine.

Polyphenals in wine are extremely healthy, there is research showing the polyphenols break down the oxidation of dietary fat, that red wine contains 5-10 times as many phenals than white and that white wine contains zero amounts of resveratrol,that same resveratrol can combat cancer and reduce the signs of aging or protect against it completely, that you get a 30% increase of antioxidant activity when you mix wine and berries together, that both red and white wine prevents cavities, the polyphenols in red wine block the formation of proteins that build the plaques long-thought to destroy brain cells and promote senility and Alzheimer’s, that the consumption of red wine seemed to increase the concentration of omega-3s which everyone should be consuming more of, and that wine gives those that drink it a better immunity and resistance to infectious cold viruses than those who do not drink.

To be honest, I could keep going, but I feel that it is not really necessary.

However, with all the great health benefits that research has shown wine is capable of, new research puts a damper on those same health benefits. Researchers in England have found that red and white wines from most European nations carry potentially dangerous levels of at least seven different heavy metals.

To put the danger in context, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a measure called THQ (Target Hazard Quotients) that establishes safe levels of frequent, long-term exposure to various chemicals. A THQ over 1 indicates a health risk, and in the recent news, seafood THQs between 1 and 5 have raised serious concerns.
The wines studied from Europe, the Middle East, and South America, have THQs ranging from 50 to 200 per glass, with some going as high as 300.

The top offenders were Hungary, Slovakia, France, Austria, Spain, Germany, Portugal, and Greece. Safe wines came from Argentina, Brazil, and Italy. But don't lead the cry for "buy American" just yet: U.S. wines weren't studied because there's no source for data on heavy metals in U.S. wines.

From the paper:

"The metal ions that accounted for most of the contamination were vanadium, copper, and manganese. But four other metals with THQs above 1 also were found: zinc, nickel, chromium, and lead.

Some 30 other metal ions were measured in the wines, but THQs could not be calculated because safe daily levels for these metals are not known.

All of these oxidating metal ions pose potential problems. But the manganese contamination particularly worries behavioral neurotoxicologist Bernard Weiss, PhD, professor of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester, N.Y. Weiss was not involved in the Naughton study.

"From the point of view of just one of these metals in wine, manganese, I would be concerned," Weiss tells WebMD. "Any time you see numbers like they have in this study, you begin to scratch your head and wonder about the effects over a long period of ingestion: Not one glass of wine last Tuesday, but a glass a day over a lifetime."

Manganese accumulation in the brain, Weiss notes, has been linked to Parkinson's disease."

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