Wine may indeed slow the ageing process
Anti-inflammatory compounds could be preventive measure
glass of good wine is a gracious thing”, wrote Sir Walter Scott, “for it reconciles poor mortality to itself ”. Two glasses (or more) can be better still, a panacea that retards the ageing process. Put simply, it runs like this. Many of the infirmities of age are due to “wear and tear’’, warranting running repairs — new hips, knees, lenses and so on.
But this does not account for the more generalised decline of physical fitness with age and the tendency for common conditions such as diabetes or raised blood pressure to become more prevalent in later years.
Rather blood tests for “inflammatory markers’’ in those in their seventies and beyond are consistently elevated, suggesting that some of those “chronic diseases of ageing’’ might be exacerbated by low-grade inflammation in the tissues. And, if so, then the anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds present in wine might be a useful preventive measure.
There is now, argues Dr Arsun Bektas in the journal Age and Ageing, “compelling’’ reasons for supposing this is the case. The reduced risk of circulatory disorders in moderate drinkers is familiar enough, but they also tend to be more robust and less prone to thinning of the bones, diabetes, mild hypertension, stomach disorders and kidney and gallstones.
This must rank among the most significant medical discoveries of recent years.
The plight of parents wrongly accused of injuring their children — a recurring theme of the late Cassandra Jardine writing in this paper — is highlighted yet again by a Swedish report highly critical of the diagnosis of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). There is only “very low quality scientific evidence’’ for the claim, frequently resulting in parental conviction, that the presence of a triad of injuries (bleeding beneath the skull and at the back of the eyes, swelling of the brain) is “characteristic’’ of their having violently shaken their baby.
Meanwhile, in the Appeal Court Mr Justice Mitting has ruled that the case against the prominent SBS critic Oxford pathologist Dr Waney Squier was “flawed in many significant respects’’ and revoked the rul- ing of the disciplinary tribunal earlier this year that she be removed from the medical register.
Indeed, the transcript of the tribunal’s judgment, in which she was found to have “dishonestly’’ misled the courts by giving evidence outside her area of expertise reads at times like that of a Stalinist show trial.
Judge Mitting was particularly critical of the pejorative dismissal of the experts appearing on Dr Squier’s behalf as being (variously) “evasive’’, “not impartial’’ or “lacking credibility’’. This impugning of the reputation of those whose testimony in the courts has helped to exonerate parents accused of SBS has been the subject of a formal complaint to the General Medical Council, whose chairman has not as yet responded.
Grist to the mill, one might think, of those who maintain that those SBS critics have been targeted “for failing to toe the establishment line’’.
This week’s medical query comes courtesy of Mrs NG of north London writing on behalf of her 60-year-old sister, the timbre of whose voice has altered over the past six months becoming quieter and slurred, especially when tired, and causing difficulties when talking on the phone.
This is particularly troublesome as her job entails dealing with the public and she has even been accused (more than once) of being drunk. She has consulted a chest physician and an ENT specialist, who have ruled out the obvious explanations (lung problems and nodules on her vocal chords), had a CT scan (gratifyingly normal) and religiously carried out breathing exercises recommended by a physiotherapist.
“I wonder if anyone might be able to throw some light on this,” she asks.
Anti-inflammatory polyphenol compounds are present in wine.