It was during a get-together with the medical fraternity that an interesting fact about the relationship of a healthy heart with moderate whisky drinking was revealed to me. One of the doctors there asked to be served a whisky that was at least 12 YO… and I was curious.

‘Any reason for this specific instruction, doctor?’ I asked.

The good doctor smiled and told me that less mature whiskies would tend to have a greater copper content which would in turn give it a lesser ability to be a good anti-oxidant.

He also told me that there is a definite connection between good health of the heart and drinking whisky once a week.  He said: ‘A 1998 BBC report mentions researchers claiming ‘that drinking the equivalent of three or four pub measures of the spirit can boost the body’s defences against disease. However, the bad news is that scientists found that the benefit was achieved by drinking just once a week.’ This research points out that both whisky and red wine raise the body’s level of anti-oxidants… but it is the whisky drinker who gets the protective benefit as whisky ensures a greater absorption of the phenol chemicals.’

‘A significant discovery of this research was also that the whisky needs to be at least a 12 YO for these benefits to really kick in,’ he added.

As a result, many doctors are not averse to recommending one to two units of whisky a day as this would give a fair degree of cardio-protection. They do, however, add that this recommendation goes only for those where the precipitating factors for a cardiac attack are imminent.

I have read a lot of Scots feeling proud of this connection because they feel that it is scotch that is indeed an elixir! Some of them do point out that the word whisky comes from uisge beatha, the Gaelic for water of life. ‘And so,’ they say, ‘the health of the heart comes as no surprise. Our whisky is indeed the water of life.’

Later that evening I did some serious net-search on the health benefits of whisky and found that whisky isn’t just good for the heart… a lot of people in the past have used it as an antiseptic for cleaning wounds. Who knows it became a favourite of the soldiers because of this fact. But besides this, a whisky doesn’t have any fat and so many chefs do add it as an ingredient for low-fat diet recipes. A standard shot of whisky has barely .04g of carb in the form of sugar which is quite alright as this sugar is metabolised fast. Some doctors also believe that whisky can be used to prevent a sudden stroke and even the onset of dementia in the elderly. Diabetes remains controlled. Anti-cholesterol effects are obvious as whisky intake tends to increase HDLs and maybe cut the LDLs in the system. As whisky contains much more ellagic acid in its structure, which is one of the important antioxidant compounds that destroy cancerous cells, drinking it can also result in a lower risk of cancer.

I told Specky, my wife, about my findings and she immediately said that whisky is also good for sore throats. ‘Lots of people prefer it with hot water and lemon,’ she said, ‘so obviously it must be fighting allergies.’ She then also went on to tell me that a whisky because of its low fat and low cholesterol content is probably a better choice of an alcoholic beverage as it would help a person maintain his weight.

Something tells me that whisky being called the ‘water of life’ isn’t altogether unjustified and does deserve to be applauded.

 

The heart, phenols, and whisky

The heart, phenols, and whisky

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Arvind Passey
29 May 2014