Over the Barrel – Ployphenic Phrenzy

By Robert Crudup

Oh, those wonderful Polyphenols, aka antioxidants. I never knew how much they meant to me.

We’re hearing all the time about the important health benefits they bring to life. And they are delivered right to my stomach in so many wonderful little packages. Here are a few of my favorite ways to capture all of Poly’s goodies: Honey is good and sweet, legumes not so much. I like cranberries at the holidays and cranberry juice with a splash of vodka has a nice ring.  Broccoli, cabbage, celery and onions all have a place at the table but often get out-voted in favor of chocolate and cherries.  I’m a fan of blueberries even though the skins tend to stick in your front teeth and make people look away thinking you’re from Oklahoma or something…which I really am anyway. Pomegranates are a lot of work but my wife used to make me drink that Pom juice which also might go well with vodka (just an idea though I’ve never tried it).  But when it comes down to my all time favorite way to ingest a hearty dose of polyphenolic fortitude, I prefer wine.  It’s beneficial aspects have been in the news but there is some little known information that I just need to share.

First, we all missed the 5th International Conference on Polyphenols and Health in Stiges, Spain.  I looked it up and its known as the St. Tropez of Spain and the postcard photo looks outstanding but I guess that is just the good part of the city. Who went? 700 people form 47 countries!  This is apparently a very big gathering of folks who are comfortable saying things like ‘biological pathways’ and ‘colonic bacteria’ while they look at posters depicting gut micro-flora and snack on the passed appetizers.  We need these people because they are the ones who make important discoveries.

Here is a good thing to know:  what you eat can affect how we digest phenols.  Just so you know, they take the measurements in samples of urine and, well, the other output as well.  But here’s the take away.  Humans excrete more phenols when eating tomatoes with olive oil than without.  If you are looking for a large antioxidant surge with a tomato salad, hold the oil.

The interesting thing that I learned about that conference is that the benefits of drinking wine were largely absent from the discussion.  Oh, I’m sure that at happy hour they were all jabbering away about the tasty wine they were drinking but the conference generally ignored what used to be a really big topic: Drink wine and live longer.  Yes, I know, “in moderation”.

But why?  What happened?  Well, there is a lot less research being conducted on wine because since 2000 the wine industry won’t fund it and the government avoids the topic of health benefits of alcohol consumption.  But, there is still plenty of research on all those other tasty things that we like to eat.  And almost all of them go very nicely with wine at a party! And a final tidbit for the carnivores in the group: one study showed that consuming wine phenols when eating meat reduced the lipid oxidation in the stomach and the toxic aldehydes in the blood.  Where’s the Beef ? (Remember Clara Barton?)

Well the whole topic has left me with a personal conflict.  The next conference is being held in Buenos Aires in 2013.  The next America’s Cup race is being held in San Francisco in…yup, 2013.  I’d love to go to Argentina to do a presentation on the health benefits of being a member of CellarMasters.  I mean, look at the foods that we put together for the monthly dinner meetings.  There are antioxidants all over the place and when mixed with some homemade wine we are living proof of the ‘French Paradox’ of how wine could prevent cardiovascular disease.

On the other hand, the Barbary Coast beckons. What could be better than sitting on the deck of my yacht anchored in the lee of Alcatraz Island  and watching the masters of the corporate world sail their boats in what is called the richest race on earth ?  And a wonderful meal of fresh Dungeness crab, sourdough bread, and a bottle of Pinot noir while would be hard to beat.  Oh, and on the heirloom tomato salad?  Please hold the oil.

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