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If You Want Antioxidants, Eat Blueberries

Depression strikes anywhere

Depression strikes anywhere

At some point, someone in the wine industry found some physicians and suggested that they come up with a plan to convince all of us that drinking wine was a great idea. Since that time, we have been told, repeatedly, that drinking some red wine – everyday- is really good for us.

The health enhancing basis of this medically proven assertion is that red wine contains anti-oxidants and we need these compounds in order to maintain our health. It is a fact, we need anti-oxidants to maintain our immune systems and promote good health.

A brief scan of the health food literature clearly indicates that antioxidants play a significant role in maintaining physiological balance in our bodies.  As oxygen interacts with the cells in our bodies, one to two percent of our cells will be damaged and turn into free radicals.

The term free radical refers to the fact that molecules from damaged cells are missing one molecular component and search for that missing molecular side chain in other cells. These free radicals attack other cells (attempting to add their missing parts) and can injure these cells, thus leading to disease.

Usually, antioxidants maintain control over the free radicals in our bodies. However, if the system is over loaded with free radicals from cigarette smoke, pollution or excessive use of alcohol, a cascade of free radicals causes more cell damage and may be a causal factor in heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer.

Increasing our intake of Vitamin C and Vitamin E can neutralize and disrupt free radical reactions. Flavonoids and Polyphenols in fruits and vegetables are also valuable sources of antioxidants. In addition, research has demonstrated that our bodies require a complex mix of vitamins and minerals to neutralize these free radicals.

So, infusing our bodies with flavonoids from blueberries and strawberries as well as the chemicals in broccoli and green tea is clearly advisable. It is also suggested that we should stop smoking and reduce our intake of alcohol.

If it is true (and it is) that wine contains anti-oxidants, then what’s the problem with drinking wine everyday- as proposed and recommended by many physicians? When we ingest alcohol, it is metabolized in the liver by certain enzymes that break alcohol into substances that can be used by the body. As you consume more alcohol, you increase the enzyme allowing the body to metabolize more alcohol.

People who rarely drink alcohol notice that their tolerance is quite low. By contrast, individuals who drink significant amounts of alcohol, on a regular or daily basis, show an increased tolerance for it.   For example, I once saw a stylish forty-something woman who had been referred for sleep problems. She reported that she started to take “just a dram” of wine, in the evening, from time to time, to help her sleep.

This had started about two years before her visit. Now, she was consuming a large tumbler of wine each night and was still having problems. Her tolerance had significantly increased and her difficulty with sleep patterns had continued.

Does daily drinking always lead to problem drinking?
No, certainly not always. However, if the body is able to metabolize alcohol a bit more effectively, then there is the opportunity for daily drinking to lead to problem drinking. The use of alcohol, on a daily basis, gives the children at the table, the idea that the daily use of alcohol is O.K.  Giving kids a “taste” of the parent’s beverage gives the message that underage drinking is tolerated.

Years of clinical experience have indicated that alcohol acts as a “magnifier” for conflicts between family members.  If someone is using alcohol on a daily basis, and it is readily available within the home, there is a minimal boundary between use and inappropriate abuse. In addition, there is a clear relationship between the use of alcohol and aggressive behaviors. Further, significant chronic use of alcohol leads to other illnesses.

Liver disease, cardiac concerns and kidney disease may also be a result of significant intake of alcohol.   Also, when alcoholic brains are weighed at autopsy, they are “lighter;” – they weigh less than normal brains. That’s not a good thing.

So, when you do a risk/benefit analysis, it would seem that if you want to increase your intake of antioxidants, don’t justify that glass of wine by thinking that you are doing something that produces health benefits. If you want to increase your intake of antioxidants, eat blueberries!

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