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Dr. Denton Weiss on the Gift of Wine: Spiritual and Physical Health Benefits

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By Dr. Denton D. Weiss, MD
1/19/2012 (7 years ago)
Catholic Online (https://www.catholic.org)

'You make the grass grow for the cattle and plants for people's work to bring forth food from the earth, wine to gladden their hearts'

Wine has a significant role in our history.Like all of Gods' gifts - the "goods" of the earth - it is how wine is received and used which makes all the difference. A glass of red wine can open up the deeper truth that all of life is a gift. Receiving wine - and all of life - as a gift can set you on the road to beautiful living .Dr Denton Weiss, MD, addresses Wine's spiritual and physical health benefits.

Let me address the question I am regularly asked by my patients, does Red Wine actually have health benefits? The answer is 'Yes!'

Let me address the question I am regularly asked by my patients, does Red Wine actually have health benefits? The answer is "Yes!"

Highlights

P>PORTSMOUTH, VA (Catholic Online) -  Wine has been at the center of human history, profoundly significant in both the Jewish and the Christian faith. From Noah to the Wedding at Cana to the Lord's Last Supper with his disciples, its importance is clear.

The Old Testament account of an encounter between Noah and his sons reveals the potential of wine for both good and for ill. "Now Noah, a man of soil, was the first to plant a vineyard. When he drank some of the wine he became drunk and lay naked in his tent." (Genesis 9: 20, 21). 

Many of us, not proudly I might add, have indulged in a little too much fruit of the vine. As Proverbs 20:1 reminds us, Wine can become, when misused, a "strong mocker." However, the problem is not the wine, it is our lack of control and our inability to both understand and live moderation.

Wine is a gift, given to us by the Creator. It "makes the hearts of men merry" wrote the Psalmist. In Psalm 104 he sings his praises to God proclaiming, "You make the grass grow for the cattle and plants for people's work to bring forth food from the earth, wine to gladden their hearts, oil to make their faces shine, and bread to sustain the human heatr."

However, like all of Gods' gifts, the "goods" of the earth, it is how wine is received and used which makes all the difference. It is the abuse of the gift which causes the problem.

For example, the account of the interaction between Noah and his sons taught Noah some real lessons. The lesson was not only to drink less, but the incident revealed the flaw in the character of his sons.How they treated their father demonstrated to Noah how they would treat and therefore, lead God's people. 

This gift of wine has implications - not only for our physical health but also for our spiritual growth and understanding our faith. It is a powerful symbol in Salvation history. Of course, its most profound use is when it becomes the very matter of the Sacrament of the Most Holy Eucharist.

The God who created the fruit of the vine sent His Son into the world to begin the New Creation. Jesus, at the Last Supper, a Passover meal, chose wine to become the very matter of the Sacrament wherein He gives us His Body to eat and His Blood to drink.

St. Paul reminds the Corinthians that at the Eucharistic Altar the cup of blessing which we bless becomes "a participation in the Blood of Christ." (1 Cor. 10:16)

When we consider the Jewish Passover Feast and its fulfillment in the events of the Holy Week we celebrate as Christians, the beauty of wine and its deeper spiritual meaning is revealed.

Let me turn now to the Passover Seder meal as we consider the role of wine in the history of Israel and the Jewish Passover. There are four cups of red wine poured during the Seder meal. Understanding their meaning can help us to understand God's Love for His people.

During the four praises/toasts the rabbi, orthe  head of the home, identifies each cup of wine with the fourfold promise of redemption: "God spoke to Moses: Tell the children of Israel: I will bring you out. I will rescue you. I will redeem you. I will take you for me as a people and I will be for you as a God." (Exodus 6:2-7).

The first cup of wine in the Seder is accompanied by a powerful blessing, the Kiddush.The Lord Jesus, the  Rabbi of Rabbi's, gathered at the Passover Seder with his disciples. He began with the first cup of wine: "Blessed art thou, Lord our God, King of the Universe, who hast created the fruit of the vine."  The Apostle Luke records the event for us in His Gospel:
 
"Then they went off and found everything exactly as he had told them, and there they prepared the Passover. When the hour came, he took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it (again) until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God."

"Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and said, "Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you (that) from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."(Luke 17:13 - 18)

The second cup of wine at the Sedermeal is a reminder of the joy that comes from the deliverance from Egypt. It reminds us of the deliverance Israel received by the Hand of God and the Ten Plagues placed upon the Egyptians because they refused to free God's people.

In order not to rejoice over the suffering of our enemies (Prov. 24:17), we spill a drop of wine (the symbol of joy) as the Ten Plagues are recited.  Joy in the freedom God has given is to be coupled with a reminder of the suffering which accompanies disobedience. The Joy we experienced every Easter is forever connected with the suffering of Christ, our Pascal sacrifice.

The third cup of the Seder is the cup of redemption. It is taken after the meal. It is the cup which reminds us of the blood of the Lamb which was spread on the doorposts of the Jewish people. We see that Jesus took the third cup in Luke 22:20 proclaiming:
 
"This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." St. Paul recounts this in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:25), "In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me."

Wine now becomes the matter used for the Sacrament of Sacraments, the Most Holy Eucharist. The Blood of the Innocent Lamb of God, Jesus the Christ, who has now become our Passover.  We are members of the Church, the New Israel, the Body of the Risen Christ.

In and through Jesus Christ we have been delivered from the bondage of sin, set free from death by His death! We are made new now in Him. Through His Resurrection we experience victory over death itself! Powerful isn't it! All of the beautiful symbols of the Seder meal have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The Seder meals fourth cup is accompanied by glorious praise to God, the Cup of Hallel.  Hallel means praise in Hebrew.  In the prayer of Jesus recorded in St. John's Gospel, Chapter 17, Jesus praises His Father at the end of the Seder.

The One through whom the whole Universe was created then moves to the Altar of the Cross where he offers Himself as an Oblation, pouring out every last drop of His Blood. As I consider the profound implications of all of this, I am moved to awe and wonder.

Finally, there is Elijah's Cup. At every Seder meal a setting is left empty waiting for Elijah, the great prophet, in hopes he will come this Passover and announce the coming of the Messiah.  As the Seder ends a child opens the door of the house and looks for Elijah.
 
As a child of God, I thank the Lord that the last cup has been emptied. The Messiah has come and His name is Jesus! Now, every Sunday, the Lords Day, the day the early Christians called the "Eighth day" signifying the beginning of the new Creation, we celebrate the Eucharistic Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. 

The One who is the Lord of the Sabbath, Jesus Christ, has been raised from the dead, triumphing over sin and death. All that was prefigured in the Seder meal is now fulfilled. At every Holy Mass the cup of wine we receive is the very Blood of Christ! Is it any wonder why wine is so significant! God Himself has designed it to be so in His loving plan of redemption.

Now, let me address the question I am regularly asked by my patients, does Red Wine actually have health benefits? The answer is "Yes!"

As we have seen, Wine has been used throughout history to worship God. It was also seen as safe to drink. Red wine was often added to water to help purify potentially contaminated water. Wine has, in many parts of the world, been considered safer to drink than the local tap or well water. The sealed containers and alcohol content kills most yeast and bacteria.

The red grape is the healthiest of the grape family. The red grape has a high concentration of resveratrol (trans-3,5,4'-trihydroxystilbene = for you chemist out there!), and quercetin.  These two polyphenols seem to work synergistically in red wine to improve health. In the mid 90's the buzz was about this stuff called resveratrol. Suddenly the market was filled with grape seed extracts, powdered grape skin and red grape everything.

The "French Paradox" was upon us. How could the French eat those wonderful breads, cheeses, and heavy fat based sauces and still have less cardiovascular disease? The answer was felt to found in their red wine consumption. The facts have never been completely proven and probably never will be.

The ability to perform a controlled study dealing with red wine and a diet simply is impossible. Although personally I'd like to be in that study: "Dr Denton you can only have red wine and water as your drink of choice for all of your meals, and only eat French food for 10 years. During this time we will measure your cholesterol levels and monitor your heart for coronary disease." No-one would have to twist my ARM!

What we do know and can prove about resveratrol is fascinating. It is found in high concentrations in red grape skins of vitis vinifera, labrusca, and muscadine grapes.  Red wine has been shown to reduce coronary heart disease when ingested in moderation.

One of the facts in this finding is resveratrol reduces platelet aggregation (clotting) which contributes to the prevention of atherosclerosis = hardening of the arteries. Anticancer properties have been shown in a variety of human tumor cell studies. These are research studies involving test tube like (invitro) research, but the evidence is largely positive.

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Dr Sinclair a Harvard researcher in 2006 reported using resveratrol supplements to extend the life of mice placed on a high caloric diet. The animals on resveratrol had a 31% increased survival versus the animals not placed on resveratrol. This data is consistent with the "French Paradox" and has stimulated a tremendous amount of further research. Bring on the grape skins!

Now what about this other polyphenol something or other ..Quercetin? Quercetin is found in many fruits such as apples but is also found in red wine. This is an antioxidant that has been shown to have both anti-inflammatory effects as well as anti-allergic effects. 

In 2006 the Cleveland Clinic oncologist Cruz-Correa et al. reported using quercetin and curcumin in patients with a form of colon polyps. The study reported all of the patients had a >50% reduction in size and number of polyps over a 6 month treatment period. In 2008, Ansari et al. found in an invitro study, quercetin protected brain cells from the toxic protein beta-amyloid seen in Alzheimer's disease.

This doesn't mean that quercetin or resveratrol are the antiaging panacea promoted by some. However, this evidence does shed some light on the findings that moderate consumption of red wine (red grapes) has health benefits.

What do I mean by moderate consumption? 1 glass/day if you are a woman. No more than 2 glasses/day if you are a man. Never more than 14, 5oz glasses of wine a week. Remember if alcohol consumption is a problem for you then consider red grapes and grape powders sold at health food stores. In the end, the words simplicity and moderation come to mind. 

A glass of red wine as you stroll through the garden this coming Easter - as Spring breaks forth with its promise of new life - can open up the deeper truth that all of life is a gift. Receiving it as a gift can set you on the road to beautiful living. My wife and I have become so enamored with this gift of wine, we have actually begun to make our own wine. That very experience has become a gift. Meet you in the Garden. The vineyard is waiting.

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Dr Denton D. Weiss, M.D. is board certified in both Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. Dr. Weiss' approach to his medical practice flows from his convictions about the meaning of life which are deeply rooted in his Catholic Faith. He and his wife, Michelle strive for an integrated approach to life which recognizes the unity of the body, mind and soul. They call this approach "Bella Vitae" or "Beautiful Living". He, and Michelle, are contributing writers to Catholic Online.

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