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Better Red than Dead

Matt O. has found what appears to be a dream job at the Huron Institute of Wine Studies. Since the observations of the so-called French Paradox in the late eighties, research into the benefits of guzzling red wine has burgeoned. Matt is working for Dr. David Cottenpurg, peripatetic pharmacologist and oenophile, who is studying the effects of wine on platelet aggregation. He believes that the beneficial effects of red wine are largely due to its abilities to inhibit aggregation of platelets and thereby prevent clot formation. The methods used are fairly simple and straightforward. Even Matt with his propensities to drift to playing cards at lunch time with his cronies can manage quite well.

The study is carried out on well trained male volunteers. They are asked to report to the laboratory at a fixed hour in the morning after an overnight fast to ensure that their stomachs are empty. They are then intubated with a nasogastric tube to have materials given directly into the lumen of the stomach. Blood is drawn from the antecubital vein in the arm and aggregation of platelets measured by noting the change in impedance in response to aggregating agents (thrombin, collagen). Two electrodes are dipped into a sample of whole blood and the change in impedance across them measured 6 minutes after the addition of collagen (2µG/mL). Decreases in aggregation can be easily quantified as change in maximal impedance following collagen (see Figure 1).

For the study, all subjects are required to report to the laboratory at 9:00 am. After the subjects have had time to settle down, Matt draws blood from the ante-cubital vein from each subject to serve as a control (Fig 1A). Each is then given in random order 200 mL either red or white wine. Ninety minutes later another sample of blood is taken (Fig 1B). The samples are processed for the study. Preliminary studies have shown that the time is optimal for absorption and all procedures have been well standardised.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Table: Effects of Wine on Whole Blood Aggregation

Type Country Name Method % Inhibition
Red France Bordeaux en barrique 87.2 ± 1.5
Red France Chateauneuf du Pape en barrique 89. 3± 2.7
Red France Beaujolais Primeur* steel tanks 62.3 ± 1.5
Red Italian Borolo en barrique 88.5 ± 2.1
Red Italian Valpolicella steel tanks 3 ± 0.2
Red German Ahr Spätburgunder steel tanks 1 ± 0.5
White Spain Rioja en barrique 0
White USA (California) Chardonnay steel tanks 0
White German Mosel-Riesling steel tanks 0

NOTE: "En barrique" refers to a procedure where grapes are pressed together with grape stems and the wine is allowed to mature in new oak barrels in contrast to wine production in steel tanks.

* Beaujolais primeur (Jean Dumont, France 1992) - a French wine that matures in steel tanks but is pressed and fermented with the grape stems.

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