No matter what science seems to tell us about a particular issue, we must always take care to reject any finding, which goes against Islamic teachings and principles.
Amel S. Abdullah
Over the last decade or so, we have been bombarded with a series of studies claiming that the moderate consumption of red wine (1-2 glasses per day) is beneficial to one's cardiovascular system and believed to provide significant protection against heart disease. Delighted with the news and encouraged by their doctors, a number of people have become regular drinkers with the excuse that it is for the sake of their health.
More recently, however, it has been proven that purple grape juice is the real hero in helping to prevent heart disease, and that the benefits from red wine are actually due to the grapes used in making the product. Alcohol plays no part whatsoever in this process and, in fact, hinders the job of the grape juice, which works to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol) and prevent the blood clots and plaques in arteries that can lead to both heart attacks and strokes in susceptible individuals.
HOW IT WORKS
When low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol ("bad" cholesterol) levels are elevated, the arterial wall can become damaged. If oxidation (a chemical reaction that adds oxygen to LDL molecules) takes place, the situation is even more dangerous and believed to be an important step in the development of diseased arteries.
Purple grape juice contains flavonoids, substances that are believed to delay the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This leads to better flexibility of the arteries, which should (when functioning properly) expand and allow more oxygen to be delivered when and where it is needed in the cardiovascular system. In addition, the consumption of flavonoids is lined to a decrease in blood clotting. In people with coronary artery disease, blood vessels are less likely to expand in response to a need for increased blood flow, making heart attack or stroke more likely to result if there are blood clots present.
While red wine also contains flavonoids, Peter Jaret of WebMD reports, "Alcoholic drinks don't seem to improve the function of cells in blood vessel linings the way grape juice does. And alcohol generates free radicals - unstable oxygen molecules that can actually cause damage to blood vessel tissues - dampening any of the benefits that red wine's antioxidants may offer."
Not only that, but University of Wisconsin researcher John Folts, Ph.D. warns, "Wine only prevents blood from clotting (when it's consumed) at levels high enough to declare someone legally drunk. With grape juice, you can drink enough to get the benefit without worrying about becoming intoxicated."
Folts, who is the director of the Coronary Thrombosis Research and Prevention Laboratory at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Madison, led a study to compare the effectiveness of red wine, aspirin and purple grape juice in preventing blood clots and delaying oxidation of LDL cholesterol.
Fifteen volunteers showing marked signs of cardiovascular disease, including clogged arteries, were asked to drink between 12 and 14 ounces of purple grape juice per day. At the end of two weeks, the patients were found to have experienced significant reductions in their rates of LDL oxidation as well as positive changes in their arteries, which had become more flexible, allowing their blood to flow more freely.
The study, published in the journal Circulation in 1999 and presented before the American College of Cardiology, also concluded that both aspirin and red wine slow the activity of blood platelets by about 45%, while purple grape juice dampens them by about 75%. Further studies at the University of California, Davis found that the beneficial antioxidant catechin lingered in the body for a longer time in subjects who drank grape juice instead of red wine.
Interestingly, eating red grapes or raisins is not as effective as drinking purple grape juice. While many grapes and raisins are seedless, juice is usually made by crushing the entire grape alone with its seeds, which are especially rich in flavonoids. Even some stems of the grape plant are likely to find their way into the juice and may have their own benefits.
Regarding the studies done by Folts, Dr. Arthur L. Klatsky of Kaiser Permanent Medical Center in Oakland, California, who studies the effects of alcohol on the heart, said, "His data are very convincing."
As Muslims, we should not be surprised by the studies debunking the red wine myth.
Wa'il al-Hadrami reported that Tariq ibn Suwaid al-Ju'fi asked Allah's Messenger, SAWS, about liquor. He forbade (its use) and expressed hatred that it should be prepared. He (Tariq) said, "I prepare it as a medicine," whereupon he (the Prophet) said, "It is no medicine, but an ailment." (Muslim)
In comparing the potential benefits of red wine versus purple grape juice in the prevention of heart disease, the Mayo Clinic notes an important riony: that alcohol can increase blood triglyceride levels in some people and actually lead to heart disease.
Besides this, the fact is that alcohol remains a danger to both the individual and to society as a whole. Alcohol is still responsible for countless deaths each year in the form of drunken driving accidents, murders committed while under the influence and health conditions such as cirrhosis, kidney disease and others. It is impossible to estimate how many families have been destroyed by the violence that often accompanies alcohol abuse, how many babies in uterus have been deformed by their mothers' use of alcohol during pregnancy, or how many young lives and intelligent minds have been wasted by dependence upon intoxicants.
In Allah's Wisdom, He prohibited the consumption of wine and other intoxicants, even when used in moderation.
Jabir reported that the Messenger of Allah said, "What intoxicates in greater quantity is unlawful also in small quantity." (Tirmithi and Abu Dawud)
SWEPT UNDER THE CARPET
It has been a few years since Folts and others uncovered the benefits of grape juice and published their studies, yet we do not see the media or even the healthcare establishment clamoring to educate us about these exciting findings. In fact, we are still being told that drinking red wine is beneficial to our health, while studies showing the dangers of alcohol consumption are largely ignored or swept under the carpet.
In trying to understand why this is happening, it is helpful to remember that there is a lot of money to be made by encouraging people to drink wine on a regular basis. Besides the sale, taxation and regulation of alcohol (a billion dollar industry), huge amounts of money are also being made by the doctors and social organizations that treat both alcoholics and the victims of alcohol abuse. General speaking, the public does not care much about these conflicts of interest: it has, after all, been granted "permission" to indulge in one of its favorite vices.
A LESSON FOR MUSLIMS
Thanks be to Allah, it is unlikely that Muslims (most of whom very clearly understand and adhere to the Islamic ban on alcohol consumption) have been adversely affected by the misinformation surrounding the subject of red wine. However, we should not lose the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson from the situation. No matter what science seems to tell us about a particular issue, we must always take care to reject any finding which goes against Islamic teachings and principles. The doctrines of Islam are timeless and will always hold true while science may change from day to day according to new theories and ways of thinking, many of which may have profit as their motive.