Red wine no paradox

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 45, No. 9, November 2003, Page 426 Editorials

The French paradox was never a paradox to me. It always seemed so obvious that the reason the French (particularly that group with whom I share gender identity) lived long, healthy lives without a statistically significant burden of “hard cardiac events” was in some way related to the consumption of red wine. Now, I freely admit to having an appreciation of red wine that is somewhere beyond actuarial statistics and being able to recreate the molecular formulas of grape-containing flavinoid antioxidants such as pycnogenol. Red wine has always been an important accompaniment to dinner meals for my wife and me, and the more important the meal the more expensive the wine. I always made light of the occasional Sultan’s ransom I paid for “important” bottles of wine and brushed aside my wife’s fiscal dismay with the explanation that the wine was in fact a pharmacologically active substance and we were making an investment in our future good health. Now I’m sure she didn’t believe one word of my learned, long-winded soliloquy, but as she enjoys the stuff as much as I do, the complaints generally could be classified as mild protestations. Most importantly, by the end of the evening the importance of the cost ran a distant third to our collective enjoyment of the celebration. However, the medical community has been bolstering my presumptions over the past few years by making regular statements about the value of red wine in the prevention of atherosclerotic disease. These announcements have been met with a lot of glad-handing among vintners around the planet as well as providing me with more ammunition when stocking the shelves of my wine storage area with what my wine broker quaintly refers to as “wine futures.” A misplaced metaphor if there ever was one, as the term seems to imply that the money spent is some kind of financial investment. As if I would ever think of selling the carefully and lovingly stored stuff for someone else to enjoy.

More recently, however, there was an announcement in the local news that scientists had confirmed that red wine prolongs life. The story quoted from a scientific study that reported that fruit flies lived 80% longer when exposed to red wine. I heard this announcement first on the radio, then read it later the same day in a national newspaper, and felt so justified that I went out and purchased a nice, moderately expensive red wine future for dinner. However, that night while enjoying a very nice post-imbibing glow, I started to think about the fruit fly thing. How on earth did they get those little insects to drink the wine and how did they ensure that they all drank the same amount? How much should a fruit fly drink before it is no longer safe to fly? I thought that flyers weren’t supposed to drink any alcohol 24 hours before flying, and if they did, Transport Canada would immediately suspend their licence. Then I started to worry that there must have been lots of crashes with multiple fruit fly injuries before the researchers were able to standardize the wine dosage safety parameters. However, I suppose it is proper and reasonable to rationalize the fruit fly carnage with scientific expediency, as the study result did dramatically demonstrate that life is extended when fruit flies drink red wine.

I know that entomological biochemists are extremely fastidious researchers and I have elected to fully endorse their research by continuing to consume daily, modest volumes of my investment in bioactive flavinoids.

If those researchers are correct, by my calculations I should live to about 146. Unfortunately, I would have to work until 127 in order to keep the cave properly supplied. Oh well, c’est la vie.


James A. Wilson, MD. Red wine no paradox. BCMJ, Vol. 45, No. 9, November, 2003, Page(s) 426 - Editorials.

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