Sunday, April 26, 2009

April 25, 2009 - Take a Little Wine

“No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” So says 1 Timothy 5:23 – a little practical advice, in the midst of some miscellaneous exhortations at the end of this New Testament letter.

Who woulda thunk it? Who could imagine this homey, first-century medical advice would surface at a 21st Century cancer research conference?

It has, though – at least, according to a recently-released research study. From a news article describing it:

“Pre-diagnostic wine consumption may reduce the risk of death and relapse among non-Hodgkin's lymphoma patients, according to an epidemiology study presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting 2009.... [The researchers] analyzed data about 546 women with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. They found that those who drank wine had a 76 percent five-year survival compared with 68 percent for non-wine drinkers. Further research found five-year, disease-free survival was 70 percent among those who drank wine compared with 65 percent among non-wine drinkers.” (“Drinking Wine May Increase Survival Among Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma Patients,” ScienceDaily, April 24, 2009.)

Admittedly, those numbers aren’t all that startling. The wine-bibbers get a mild statistical bump, that’s all. Draining Bacchus’ cup is clearly no panacea, but it does seem that “a little wine,” as the author of 1 Timothy advises, can be good for what ails ya.

Not every tippler will be happy with the study’s results, though: “Beer and/or liquor consumption did not show a benefit,” the report soberly concludes.

It’s just the vino, folks.

According to the article, wine has certain anti-oxidants that tend to retard tumor growth. This is consistent with some earlier studies that show wine (especially red wine) has a mild positive effect on heart health. An occasional glass of Chianti or Lambrusco is part of the highly-touted “Mediterranean diet.” Now, it appears the fruit of the vine does a little something for lymphoma prevention as well.

The oncologists aren’t exactly advocating pub crawls. Far from it: “This conclusion is controversial, because excessive drinking has a negative social and health impact, and it is difficult to define what is moderate and what is excessive,” says one of the lead researchers, by way of a disclaimer.

(Nota bene: 1 Timothy does specify “a little wine.” All things in moderation.)

I’ve always thought an occasional glass of red wine to be one of life’s little pleasures. It’s nice when something that tastes so good turns out to be good for you, as well.

Wine has even found its way into religious poetry on occasion. I close with these lines from the medieval Persian poet, Rumi:

“The grapes of my body can only become wine
After the winemaker tramples me.
I surrender my spirit like grapes to his trampling
So my inmost heart can blaze and dance with joy.
Although the grapes go on weeping blood and sobbing
‘I cannot bear any more anguish, any more cruelty’
The trampler stuffs cotton in his ears: ‘I am not working in ignorance
You can deny me if you want, you have every excuse,
But it is I who am the Master of this Work.
And when through my Passion you reach Perfection,
You will never be done praising my name.’”

– Mevlana Jelaluddin Rumi (1207 - 1273)


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