Red wine? Yes and no

Billy the Kid gets all the publicity when it comes to outlaws of the Wild West but Harold the Adolescent deserves some attention too. So named because of a case of acne that persisted well into his 50s, Harold the Adolescent terrorised shoe-wearing public of Wyoming between 1862 and 1881. Harold’s cross to bear was that he had one foot that was a full two sizes larger than the other and so, unable to afford to constantly buy two pairs of boots when it came to new boot time, Harold would rob someone of their boots who had the correct shoe size for his right foot and then hold up someone else with the appropriate size for his left foot. Harold was a man driven by podiatric inequality but he maintained a strong ethical sense and if he was forced to shoot someone in the course of obtaining their footwear he always made a point of leaving behind some bandaging and an ointment. He even took to attaching a bandage to the blade of his knife so that the bandage would be left to cover the wound immediately after insertion. In fact the folk of Wyoming came to call something that caused both harm and good a “Harold”. In this context, and in light of a new study, they may have called red wine a “Harold” because it apparently contains substances that can cause cancer but also some that can stop cancer progressing.

In the new study researchers noted that there is an epidemiological link between head and neck cancer and consumption of alcohol but that the lowest incidence is in people who drink red wine as their alcohol source. The researchers have an explanation for this phenomenon.

In the initial stages of metabolising alcohol your body converts alcohol into acetyl aldehyde and then an enzyme called aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) converts it further into acetic acid. Acetyl aldehyde is a dangerous and cancer causing chemical because it damages DNA, and if you lack ALDH then your chances of cancer become higher or if you consume a lot of alcohol causing a back up of unconverted acetyl aldehyde.

In the case of red wine as an alcohol source however, the resveratrol from the grapes eliminates cells with the most DNA damage which are also those most likely to promote cancer. It does not mean that you can consume alcohol in vast quantities just because it is in the form of red wine but it does mean that moderate red wine consumption is the best way to go for your alcohol as resveratrol functions somewhat as the metaphorical bandage on the blade of the knife.

In case you are wondering, Harold the Adolescent is metaphorical too, or at least allegorical, but just because we don’t know that he existed doesn’t mean that he didn’t…does it?

Terry Robson

Terry Robson

Terry Robson is the Editor-in-Chief of WellBeing and the Editor of EatWell.

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