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Antioxidants In Wine

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | December 12, 2010

Antioxidants keep free radicals from attacking the body's cells and contributing to the destructive processes inside the body. Antioxidants slow or prevent the oxidation of other molecules by capturing free radicals. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals, which start chain reactions that damage cells. Antioxidants terminate these chain reactions by removing free radicals, and inhibit other oxidation reactions by being oxidized themselves. As a result, antioxidants are often reducing agents such as polyphenols. Grapes contain certain polyphenol antioxidants.

Polyphenols are a group of chemical substances found in plants. Tannins from wine contain some flavonoid polyphenols. It is in the first years of the wine that some polyphenols help prevent cardiovascular diseases and some cancers, among other health benefits. Resveratrol is a compound produced by plants to help them ward off fungal infections and other diseases. Resveratrol belongs in the class of antioxidants known as polyphenols. The most abundant flavonoid polyphenols are found in red wine, which can measure up to one gram per litre, as found in some traditional style red wines.

Flavonoids and resveratrol are the main types of antioxidants found in red wine. Flavonoids are antioxidant compounds found in plants. Flavonoids are the most abundant polyphenols in the diet. In red wine, the main type of flavonoid is anthocyanin which is a substance found in the skin of the grape that produces the deep purple/red color of the wine. Other sources of flavonoids include all citrus fruits, berries, ginkgo biloba, onions, parsley, tea (especially white tea and green tea), and chocolate with a cocoa content of 70 percent or greater.

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Cabernet Sauvignon contains the most antioxidants, followed closely by Petite Sirah and Pinot Noir. Merlots and Red Zinfandels have some antioxidants, but less than the other wines.

Wine antioxidants can reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes by relaxing the blood vessels and inhibiting the oxidation of unhealthy cholesterol. Wine antioxidants may also help prevent certain types of cancer. The antioxidant resveratrol is being used with cancer patients. When resveratrol is used in combination with radiation, the antioxidant resveratrol is shown to help kill cancerous cells. Antioxidants in wine are associated with improved brain and muscle function. This may help to lower your risk of developing degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer's disease.

With the opportunity for important health benefits available by drinking a glass or two of wine daily, the option should be considered. Just keep in mind that the moderate consumption of wine is defined as one to two drinks per day. This has been suggested to increase overall good health. A standard drink is generally considered to be about 5 ounces of wine. Drinking more than one or two glasses per day may cause other health problems, and the benefits of the antioxidants in the wine may be removed. But keeping your consumption at a moderate rate allows for many health benefits as you enjoy your glass of wine.

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