THURSDAY, Nov. 8, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Two of life's simple pleasures -- a glass of wine, a little time in the sun -- may have benefits for women's health.
Wine first: In a report from Spain, researchers at the University of Barcelona evaluated the effects of moderate consumption of red and white wine -- 6.8 ounces, or two glasses a day -- in 35 nonsmoking Spanish women, average age 38.
The study was done like any other controlled medical trial, with each woman drinking the recommended "dose" of either white or red wine for four-week periods, with a four-week dry period separating each round of study.
"The data showed that, in comparison with the baseline period, consumption of both red and white wines increased serum [blood] HDL cholesterol (often called 'good' cholesterol), which suggests a cardio-protective effect," said the report in the November issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
"Similarly, serum concentrations of interleukin-6 and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (both markers of chronic inflammation), decreased significantly after both wine ingestion periods," the authors wrote.
Other markers of cardiac health were affected "in a healthy way" by red wine a little more than by white wine, the researchers added. The study provides, "scientifically rigorous evidence" that moderate wine consumption helps keep the heart healthy by preventing low-grade inflammation in women, the Spanish team concluded.
"This continues to add to many other studies by showing the mechanisms by which both red and white wine help prevent heart disease," said Dr. R. Curtis Ellison, professor of medicine and public health at Boston University. "When you give women a glass and a half of wine each day, you have considerable effects on improving inflammation, a little more for red wine than for white," said Ellison, who was not involved in the research.
A number of other studies have shown the same protective effect in men, with slightly greater intake of wine, Ellison said.
Next, sunlight: In the same issue of the journal, a British-American team reported a trial in which levels of inflammation-related molecules were measured against blood levels of vitamin D, made naturally by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight.
"The purpose of the study was to see if there was a correlation between vitamin D levels and indicators of aging," said co-researcher Jeffrey P. Gardner, a professor at the Center of Human Development and Aging at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.
In addition to measuring blood levels of inflammation-linked molecules such as C-reactive protein, the researchers also measured the length of sections of the women's DNA called telomeres.
"Other people's work indicated that telomeres were bioindicators of aging, more than a person's chronological age," Gardner said.
Longer telomeres indicate low levels of inflammation, he explained.
Sure enough, the data indicated that higher levels of circulating vitamin D was associated with longer telomere length. Women with the lowest concentration of vitamin C and highest concentration of C-reactive protein had telomeres short enough to indicate about 7.6 more years of aging than women with the highest vitamin D and lowest C-reactive protein levels.
"Optimal vitamin D status may provide a benefit during the aging process," the researchers concluded, with additional trials needed to prove the point.
Still, health experts caution that excessive exposure to sunlight remains a leading risk factor for skin cancer. And too much drinking can harm the body in numerous ways.
There's more on vitamin D at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.