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03.16.2008

Why Are All Wine Studies Done on Mice and Alcoholics?

Scientists are supposed to be really smart folks, aren't they? Then why, in their valiant attempts to understand the effects (good and bad) of wine on people, do they spend their time giving wine mostly to transgenic mice and serious alcoholics? The mice can't appreciate it and the alcoholics won't care what they're drinking.

You'd think there would be legions of college students around the world falling all over themselves to be research subjects on studies that involved consuming three to five glasses of red wine per week on a regular basis. Especially compared to the alternative of rubbing lotions on patches of skin checking to see which cause rashes, or popping pills every week that might be sugar or might produce anal leakage. Heck, these folks probably wouldn't even need to be paid, especially if you served them some decent wine.

Sadly, the medical establishment continues to play with their rats and to provide guidance useful only to chronic alcoholics, like the stunning findings for this week, that suggest that if you're going to be an alcoholic, drinking beer results in less long term brain degeneration than drinking wine. Specifically, alcoholics (especially women) whose drink of choice was wine showed more shrinkage of their hippocampus than alcoholics whose drink of choice was beer.

Tastes great, less filling. And less brain shrinkage, too!

Of course, that's not the way the news media of the world reported it. Probably because alcoholics aren't a really huge segment of their readership. In order to make it more interesting for the rest of the world the newsroom's finest came up with such headlines as:

"Wine is worse for brain than beer, scientists reveal in blow for women drinkers"

"Beer better for brain, wine a worry"

"Wine damages brain more than beer: researchers"

Scary. I've had this weird throbbing sensation in my head for the last couple of days. I'm sure it's my hippocampus shrinking. Apparently this area of the brain is heavily involved in short and long-term memory, which means that wine lovers have a perfect excuse now for forgetting anything.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud