FINE food sings on the palate, but pairing it with the right wine creates a chorus. Among those in the know, the plum, chocolate and spice flavours of Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlots, Pinot Noirs and Sangioveses best accentuate the rich flavours of red meats. Now, however, a group of researchers led by Joseph Kanner of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem has discovered that pairing red wines like these with red meat appears to be more than just a matter of taste. If the two mix in the stomach, compounds in the wine thwart the formation of harmful chemicals that are released when meat is digested.
The idea that red wine is actually good for your health is irresistible to the average tippler. But it appears to be true. In particular, red wines are rich in polyphenols, a group of powerful antioxidants that are thought to protect against cancer and heart disease by destroying molecules that would otherwise damage cells. How the polyphenols in wine exercise their beneficial effects, though, has been mysterious. That is because they do not seem to travel in any quantity from the stomach into the bloodstream.
The answer, Dr Kanner has found, lies in the stomach itself. The digestion of high-fat foods such as red meat releases oxidising toxins. One in particular, called malondialdehyde, is implicated in arteriosclerosis, cancer, diabetes and a host of other serious diseases. Dr Kanner suspected that the key to wine’s protective effect is when, precisely, it is consumed. He hypothesised that if the polyphenols arrive in the stomach at the moment when the fats are releasing malondialdehyde and its kin, then this might stop these toxic materials from getting any farther into the body.
Take us home St. Paul:
No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments. 1 Timothy 5:23