Red, red wine

Do its heart-healthy benefits survive cooking?

Red Wine in glass 370 (photo credit: courtesy)
Red Wine in glass 370
(photo credit: courtesy)
I know that red wine is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. I often cook with wine, as when making beef tongue or other meat or chicken dishes. I have heard about the French paradox, in which the people of France eat a lot of animal fat but nevertheless have a low rate of heart attacks – because they drink a lot of red wine. I was wondering whether the heart-healthy benefits of wine survive cooking, or are lost. Can you explain what in red wine is beneficial and how it helps the heart? B.J., Tel Aviv
Dorit Adler, chief clinical dietitian at Hadassah University Medical Center in Jerusalem’s Ein Kerem, answers:
The French paradox indeed refers to the observation that the French suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats.
One of the factors that is related to the protective effect of wine is their content of polyphenols, which are antioxidants. These are said to reduce inflammation in coronary artery disease.
Polyphenols are said to neutralize oxidants and free radicals, and reduce harmful cholesterol that has negative effects on the heart and blood vessels. Other positive effects such as on the skin have not yet been proven scientifically in humans, so they are not allowed as health statements by regulatory authorities like the US Food and Drug Administration.
The function of polyphenols can be harmed by long exposure to heat. Thus, it seems that adding the wine at the end of the cooking process, especially when cooking meat, would be better than cooking with wine from the beginning. However, there are numerous other ways to get antioxidants, and it is recommended to lower the consumption of red meat as part of a heart-healthy diet.
I am 46 years old and recently was diagnosed with premenstrual syndrome by my gynecologist. I have never had the problem before. My symptoms are tiredness, headaches, sleeping difficulties, appetite changes and sometimes attacks of anger that disappear following or during menstrual periods. There was a long line of patients in at my gynecologist’s office, and she really didn’t have much time to explain it to me. She only prescribed a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug and a pill to reduce the accumulation of fluid in my body. What are the causes of PMS, and are there any lifestyle changes or natural products I can use to improve my situation? L.M., Beersheba
Dr. Guy Gutman, a gynecologist and head of the polycystic ovary clinic at the Lis Maternity Hospital of Tel Aviv’s Sourasky Medical Center, replies: PMS can occur in a fertile woman at any age, and symptoms usually ease as time passes – but ironically, in some women, the symptoms may get worse when they get closer to menopause. Most women with PMS suffer from only some of a gamut of symptoms, which can also include stomachache, outbreaks of acne, bloating, attacks of hunger and difficulty focusing.
The main causes are periodic changes in levels of estrogen and progesterone, a decline in the brain neurotransmitter called serotonin, stress and a lack of vitamins and minerals in the diet.
Among the medications given to ease the symptom are contraceptive pills to present hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, diuretics such as spironolactone that relieve some of the symptoms, anti-depression pills if relevant and – in more serious cases – injections of progesterone called metroxyprogesterone acetate.
In mild cases, it is worthwhile to try eating frequent but smaller meals that reduce the feeling of bloatedness and being full or nauseous; a reduction in the consumption of salt, which causes bloatedness; a diet rich in complex carbohydrates and fiber such as fresh fruit and vegetables and whole grains; avoidance of coffee and alcohol; getting a lot of sleep; daily aerobic exercise (swimming, walking or biking, for example); and hydrotherapy (jacuzzi or warm baths) during the most difficult days.
Don’t neglect treatment, as some of these strategies can really help you. Consult with another gynecologist if you are not happy with the one you saw previously.
Judy Siegel-Itzkovich notes: In a letter referring to an answer to a previous query on getting rid of canker sores in the mouth, reader Gala Greenspan offers her own solution:
I believe I have an answer for that young girl with such sores. I suffered for many years from the problem and found a cure in Reader’s Digest many years ago. Take a teabag – a regular one, not fruit flavor – and put it in a mug. Boil water and pour it over the teabag. Squeeze the water out and pour cold water over it. Squeeze the cold water out as well and put the teabag on the canker sore for a minute or two. The next day, the pain should be relieved somewhat, and by the second day the pain should be gone. It works for me.
Rx for Readers welcomes queries from readers about medical problems. Experts will answer those we find most interesting. Write Rx for Readers, The Jerusalem Post, POB 81, Jerusalem 91000, fax your question to Judy Siegel-Itzkovich at (02) 538-9527, or email it to, giving your initials, age and place of residence.