Friday Beer Blogging – Beer Is A Sign That God Loves Me And Wants Me To Be Happy Live Forever

We at Ballon Juice HQ understand the importance of drinking safely. If, for example, you’re reading this blog while drinking and driving we recommend that you should stop at least one of those things and probably two. But let’s think about the word ‘safety’ for a minute. If you define safety as reducing your risk of illness or death there’s more wisdom to be mined from modern science than merely handing over your keys to a friend. Don’t take my word for it when you could listen to the accredited experts at Hahvahd:

It’s safe to say that alcohol is both a tonic and a poison. The difference lies mostly in the dose. Moderate drinking seems to be good for the heart and circulatory system, and probably protects against type 2 diabetes and gallstones. Heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death in most countries. In the U.S., alcohol is implicated in about half of fatal traffic accidents.(1) Heavy drinking can damage the liver and heart, harm an unborn child, increase the chances of developing breast and some other cancers, contribute to depression and violence, and interfere with relationships.

…More than 100 prospective studies show an inverse association between moderate drinking and risk of heart attack, ischemic (clot-caused) stroke, peripheral vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, and death from all cardiovascular causes.(4)

…Moderate amounts of alcohol raise levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good” cholesterol),(6) and higher HDL levels are associated with greater protection against heart disease. Moderate alcohol consumption has also been linked with beneficial changes in a variety of factors that influence blood clotting, such as tissue type plasminogen activator, fibrinogen, clotting factor VII, and von Willebrand factor.(6)

…The benefits of moderate drinking aren’t limited to the heart. In both the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, gallstones and type 2 diabetes were less likely to occur in moderate drinkers than in nondrinkers. (11-13)

They go on to talk about what happens to you when you’re not moderate, but come on. Here at Balloon Juice we effing define moderate.

Alternatively, the poindexters at Harvard define ‘moderate’ as one drink or so per day with some wiggle room for weekends and Las Vegas. If you’re going to follow their advice and limit yourself to one drink a day, here’s a chance to talk about the boffest single bottle of beer that I’ve ever had and, according to not a few gourmands at the Beer Advocate one of the best on our blue-green marble: #10 from Trappistes Rochefort in Belgium.

Impossibly rich with unapologetic doses of sediment and protein, Rochefort pours dark with a generous head that never dies. Rochefort 10 presents a full suite of overtones and undertones, well-balanced and sweetish, that I can’t begin to describe. Made by actual trappist monks, you can sip on Rochefort 10 for hours, which is fine because at 11.3% this is the opposite of a session beer. You owe it to yourself to pony up for at least one before you die or your wife spots the $12/bottle price tag.

***

Today’s non-beer alternative carries on with the theme of health food that they don’t have to force us to eat. In fact, I’d argue that of the great things about our modern age is how the stuff we already like is increasingly turning out to be good for us.

The story starts more than sixty years ago when scientists found that rats lived quite a bit longer when kept on a starvation diet, and got sick a lot less. This turned out to be true for every species tested, with the unfortunate drawback that the long-lived critters became practically sterile. Science remained stalled at that paradox for decades – on the one hand you could live quite a bit longer (30-60% longer, if rats are a guide) and remain healthy longer, but on the other hand you’d be starving and miserable and wouldn’t enjoy sex.

Skip to the modern era. Some years back an upstart biochemist named David Sinclair realized that we might have a chance to shortcut the biological pathway that makes our bodies think that we’re starving, so that we can get all the benefit of the low-calorie diet without the part where you starve all day and pass up on reproduction as a pastime. Ignoring the advice of colleagues who told him to keep out of the aging field, which at that point was mostly phenomenological and a place where good careers went to die, Sinclair wagered his career on the idea that the benefit from starvation came from reassigning our body’s resources towards DNA quality-control rather than reproduction. Following up on that noion Sinclair purified an important DNA quality-control step in a test tube and tested the ability of tens of thousands of random chemicals to speed up the process, e.g. make cells more careful to proofread DNA while duplicating it. After a year’s work he had a candidate.

True to his model, Sinclair found that resveratrol significantly extended the lifespan of common laboratory model organisms such as yeast, worms and flies, suggesting that its function persists at every level of the animal kingdom. He also found that pretreatement with resveratrol reduced the risk of cancer in laboratory rats, not much of a surprise when you think that cancer basically comes from sloppy DNA quality control. Most importantly (to some), resveratrol mimicked the positive effects of a low-calorie diet without the problem of infertility. If you want to get a sense of how much work has tied resveratrol to a surprising range of therapeutic effects, including protecting the brain against neurodegeneration , skim through the references here.

As cool as that is there’s a reason why you’re reading about it on Friday. Early in his work Sinclair sent chemist minions all over the map to find out where you find this stuff growing in nature. He found one, solitary source:

It might sound a bit too convenient if it weren’t true – the only place where you find resveratrol in any significant quantity is in red wine. One of the chief problems with maintaining the compound is that it oxidizes in a heartbeat, which means that it won’t last very long exposed to air. That’s why grape juice won’t do you any good even if the same yeast that infuses red wine with its chemical goodness also grows on your juicing grapes. Contrariwise, wine drinkers know that wine stays in the reduced state (the opposite of oxidized) until it’s been open awhile. That means that as the yeast grows in fermenting wine, it deposits resveratrol which stays intact until the day that you decide to uncork the bottle; then you’ve got about a day before the resveratrol is mostly gone along with the balance of most reds.

The oxidation question explains why both John and I are so big on those Australian boxed wines. You can ‘uncork’ one of these and, though quality-control can be hit or miss, you’ll have a fresh glass a night for a few weeks.

Sinclair won’t say which labels come particularly high in resveratrol, but he will say that you can reliably find more in Pinot Noir than in most other varieties. Yeah, I know, as if restaurants didn’t already have to deal with a bunch of Pinot-crazy Paul Giamatti fans.

To your health, then.






28 replies
  1. 1
    Gray says:

    Actually, I’m just opening another bottle. This is just-in-time blogging :D

    Prost!

  2. 2
    Krista says:

    I’ll drink to that! (Lord knows I need a drink after today’s previous ugliness.)

  3. 3
    Jack Roy says:

    Okay, I pulled over. But is it okay if I keep blogging under the influence? Cos god knows I come up with my best stuff (such as it is) in times like this.

  4. 4
    Gray says:

    “They go on to talk about what happens to you when you’re not moderate, but come on.
    Here at Balloon Juice we effing define moderate.”

    Hehe! Of course, I am a fan of drinking liberally.
    But I never drank more than I could force myself to swallow. Never applied the stuff intravenously. You have to know the limits.
    ggg

  5. 5
    Gray says:

    But is it okay if I keep blogging under the influence?

    K, but don’t hit the road, Jack!
    And BUI is almost as dangerous as HUI, think of poor victim Deadeye Dick!

  6. 6
    Gray says:

    Hmm, shorry, zis fictim, off curse :burb:

  7. 7
    Keith says:

    Not to be a killjoy on red wine being the sole source, but from the Wiki on resveratrol:
    “It is found in the skins of certain red grapes, in peanuts, blueberries, some pines (Scots pine, eastern white pine) and the roots and stalks of Japanese knotweed (hu zhang in China) and giant knotweed”

  8. 8
    Krista says:

    Just bottled a batch of Pinot Noir yesterday, actually. I’m delighted to hear that it’s a health tonic. :)

  9. 9
    Krista says:

    Blueberries, I have. But when I went down the local Co-op and asked about Japanese knotweed, they were fresh out, unfortunately.

  10. 10
    Gray says:

    Just bottled a batch of Pinot Noir yesterday, actually. I’m delighted to hear that it’s a health tonic.

    Dang! I have half a bottle of Chianti left from yesterday. Now it seems like I should have bought the more expensive stuff :(

  11. 11
    KCinDC says:

    “Ever eat a pine tree? Some parts are edible.” </ewell_gibbons>

  12. 12
    CaseyL says:

    That means that as the yeast grows in fermenting wine, it deposits resveratrol which stays intact until the day that you decide to uncork the bottle; then you’ve got about a day before the resveratrol is mostly gone along with the balance of most reds.

    OK, so what you’re saying is, when I open a bottle of something red and glorious, I better drink the whole thing that night or lose the health benefits?

    Gotcha. I can live with that.

    Jeez, I just thought of something. About 2 years ago I was hanging out with some heavy wine drinkers. Top quality, but also maximum consumption. When I stopped hanging out with that crowd, my wine drinking decreased dramatically. It occurs to me that I didn’t get sick as much back then as I’ve been lately (working on my third winter cold now, thankyouverymuch) – though, to be fair, maybe I was too drunk to notice.

    This bears much thought.

  13. 13
    Richard 23 says:

    Dammit Tim, I just spilled my beer on my laptop while getting pulled over. Thanks for the funny post, jerk!

  14. 14
    kl says:

    Your Ben Franklin quotes do you no favors, Tim. Drink all the Belgian beers you want, Ben Franklin still would not want to hang out with you.

  15. 15
    The Captain of the O says:

    I’m not much of a wine man. Can I instead instead shell out enormous sums of cash to whatever enterprising pharma company puts this molecule in pill form?

  16. 16
    Gray says:

    Drink all the Belgian beers you want, Ben Franklin still would not want to hang out with you.

    Hmm, you speaking about the same Ben Franklin (1706-1790), who is listed at wikipedia as one of those who contributed to liberal theory?

  17. 17
    kl says:

    Well, it’s got the word “liberal” in it!

  18. 18
    Grotesqueticle says:

    I tried drinking moderately once. It was the longest….
    well, it just didn’t take.

  19. 19
    rachelrachel says:

    As we speak, there is no professional health association that will get behind the claim that moderate alcohol consumption has a net benefit. The American Heart Association do not recommend alcohol as a heart protectant. They point out that while moderate drinking elevates HDL (good), it also elevates triglycerides (bad) and blood pressure (also bad). If one is in need of heart medication, one should go to the doctor and get a prescription for a drug with proven safety and efficacy. They recommend randomized clinical trials as the method of weighing risks against benefits.

    Other studies show that eating half of a raw onion per day increases HDL by a greater amount. For some reason, this effect hasn’t gotten the publicity that the wine studies have.

    The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control recently did a big epidemiological study and did not conclude that there was a net benefit for anyone.

    Here’s a website with more information on the health effects of alcohol.

    When you look closer at those who tout the benefits of moderate drinking, it often turns out that they are funded by the liquor industry. And I suspect that these Harvard people are as well, because of the way the article is written. First, they mention the studies in support of the “moderate drinking good” but not of those concluding the opposite or of any negative effects, for example the link with various types of cancer. They are being choosy in citing only those studies that help prove their point. In fact there’s a very complex picture, which they choose to ignore.

    Also, the notion that alcohol offers “a soothing respite at the end of a stressful day; the occasional drink with friends can be a social tonic” is not the sort of language we hear from health advocates. It is the sort of language we hear from those who make a living selling alcohol.

    Also, it’s not necessary to find a substance that tastes and smells just like alcohol to do the clinical trials. Studies are done without double-blind when it’s not practical to do so.

    I notice that they still cite the so-called “French Paradox,” even though that study has been debunked long ago. Here’s a web page on the French Paradox.

  20. 20
    anonymous says:

    Shrinking brains. Hangover is the alcohol evaporating the moisture in your brain. It shrinks and a head ache occurs. Over time this(the continual shrnking of the brain) can lead to pschysophrenia, etc. Hearing voices and seeing things with the eyes closed. I guess the world went alcholic with Bill, but a psychiatrist might point out that if you were ‘sucked’ by the alien device, it has the same affect, so its not so bad after all!

    Alot of water before bed time helps alot in the long run.

  21. 21
    Dylan says:

    Tip from an Aussie, they call those boxed wines “casks” here.

    And like most wines, they are variable in quality roughly in proportion to their price.

    @rachelrachel
    Let me see, do I double my wine intake, or do I eat half a raw onion? Or do I do nothing? Tough choice.

  22. 22
    belle waring says:

    if your wide appreciates a fine beer you can spend at will but just have to share… ;)

  23. 23
    Krista says:

    Dylan – yeah, I’ll take my chances with the wine. Half a raw onion per day probably increases your lifespan solely because nobody will get close enough to you to transmit anything communicable.

  24. 24
    scs says:

    Keep up the good science posts TimF. I know they don’t always get the large comment thread like the hot political issues, but it is always a good change and a chance to learn.

  25. 25

    […] Wine and dark Concord grape juice already offer advantages from a class of antioxidants called polyphenols, read what the pros say here or check here for our write-up. It’s always cool to see another health benefit from something that we already enjoy. […]

  26. 26
    Mathieu says:

    Gosh, I’m a reference on the web all the sudden! (I’m the photographer who committed that picture of Pinot Noir)

    I’ll have to show the wine expert in the family, she’ll be tickled pink, or red, or perhaps even noir?

  27. 27

    […] These simple tools, plus a few that I’ve left out, allowed the fly-pushers to uncover the fundamental rules of genetics. A large fraction of known human genes first made their appearance when somebody discovered a fruit fly with a unique characterstic, mapped the mutant and discovered what the gene does. Since they perform very many ethical experiments on their subjects, human geneticists often start off with the fruits of a fly pusher’s work and simply look to see whether the same or similar thing can be found in us. I’m necessarily giving short shrift to the great folks working in yeast genetics, but this being a beer blog the topic of yeast hardly gets ignored. […]

  28. 28

    […] Keep in mind that resveratrol treatment hovers in about the same promising what-if stage as stem cell therapy, waiting on numerous clinical trials and safety studies whose results are not preordained. But if the promise pans out it is almost impossible to overstate the consequences that resveratrol could have on daily life. The preventative aspects alone could force a major realignment in healthcare priorities – if you were an insurance company, wouldn’t you want your clients taking the stuff? If it holds down the claim rate then Resveratrol treatment would easily pay for itself. Resveratrol seems relatively cheap and simple to manufacture even at the current niche-market level of production (judging by the chemical structure, aspirin should be harder to make) so the promise of lifespan and health won’t even stratify that easily along class lines the way much of our current healthcare does. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] Keep in mind that resveratrol treatment hovers in about the same promising what-if stage as stem cell therapy, waiting on numerous clinical trials and safety studies whose results are not preordained. But if the promise pans out it is almost impossible to overstate the consequences that resveratrol could have on daily life. The preventative aspects alone could force a major realignment in healthcare priorities – if you were an insurance company, wouldn’t you want your clients taking the stuff? If it holds down the claim rate then Resveratrol treatment would easily pay for itself. Resveratrol seems relatively cheap and simple to manufacture even at the current niche-market level of production (judging by the chemical structure, aspirin should be harder to make) so the promise of lifespan and health won’t even stratify that easily along class lines the way much of our current healthcare does. […]

  2. […] These simple tools, plus a few that I’ve left out, allowed the fly-pushers to uncover the fundamental rules of genetics. A large fraction of known human genes first made their appearance when somebody discovered a fruit fly with a unique characterstic, mapped the mutant and discovered what the gene does. Since they perform very many ethical experiments on their subjects, human geneticists often start off with the fruits of a fly pusher’s work and simply look to see whether the same or similar thing can be found in us. I’m necessarily giving short shrift to the great folks working in yeast genetics, but this being a beer blog the topic of yeast hardly gets ignored. […]

  3. […] Wine and dark Concord grape juice already offer advantages from a class of antioxidants called polyphenols, read what the pros say here or check here for our write-up. It’s always cool to see another health benefit from something that we already enjoy. […]

Comments are closed.