Red wine’s barely a drink anymore. Alcohol? That’s beer, whiskey, mixed drinks. Red wine’s the smart person’s drink, the invigorating, heart-healthy, antioxidant wonder beverage. Our red wine – a combination of water, sugar, ethanol and coloring – is health food, not alcohol!
Okay, you can guess where this piece is going. Any sentence now, and out comes the wagging finger. Raised eyebrows. A long list of all the reasons the preconceived notions about red wine were wrong accompanied by a knowing shake of the head. This is a detox website, after all. The thing is, not all the conventional wisdom about red wine is wrong. But there are a lot of assumptions in that wisdom and not a lot of science, and every assumed health benefit of red wine hinges on one word: moderation.
Moderation can be a problem for a lot of people, and not just those struggling with substance issues. The hype around red wine may convince some that the supposed benefits of drinking it outweigh the risks involved with consuming an addictive substance like alcohol.
What we know about red wine
Most if not all our notions about red wine’s benefits can be traced to “Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease,” according to a study published in The Lancet in 1992. The study questioned why rates of heart disease in France were lower than those in other countries, despite the well-known French appetite for saturated fats and Gauloises cigarettes. The researchers suggested that moderate red wine intake could play a role in fighting heart disease due to the presence of substances in red wine called antioxidants.
Found in many fruits and vegetables, antioxidants may delay or prevent certain types of cell damage. The National Institutes of Health, NIH, says there is good evidence a diet rich in fruits and vegetables is healthy and can lower the risk of certain diseases. What’s unclear is if this is due to the antioxidants, something else in the food or outside factors.
What about resveratrol?
Red wine contains a class of antioxidants called polyphenols. One of these antioxidants, resveratrol, may benefit the heart by reducing bad cholesterol and preventing blood clots. But most of the research on resveratrol has been done on animals. Studies done on mice suggest that the antioxidant might protect them from obesity and diabetes. Mice, mind you – the Mayo Clinic estimates in order for a human to receive the same dose of resveratrol as the mice they’d have to drink more than 1,000 liters – around 264 gallons – of red wine a day. Drinking 264 gallons of anything each day is a terrible idea.
Resveratrol as a supplement sounds like the most logical method to obtain the desired dose. Livescience.com shares some insight, “The amount of resveratrol found in one glass of wine can range from 0.2 milligrams to 2.0 mg, according to the Linus Pauling Institute. While 250 mg may seem excessive, it’s not uncommon for resveratrol supplements to include as much as 900 milligrams of resveratrol.”
Other studies have put resveratrol’s benefits into question. The Mayo Clinic reports one study showed resveratrol might have reversed the benefits of exercise on the heart in older men. Furthermore, resveratrol’s effects seem to last only a short time after consuming red wine.
So are there any benefits?
Shorter-term studies measuring the physiological effects on light to moderate drinkers seems to suggest that yes, a moderate intake of alcohol can raise good cholesterol in the blood and decrease the risk of blood clots. A long-term study of light to moderate drinkers in the British Medical Journal showed lower rates of heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to point out that these benefits seem to apply only to particular diseases. “To the degree we attribute benefit to moderate drinking, it’s only with coronary heart disease,” said Harvard University’s Kenneth Mukamal, M.D., to Vox.com. Additionally, these benefits do not seem to apply universally to all people: a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed a possible link between moderate drinking and breast cancer in women.
What’s moderate drinking?
The NIH considers one daily serving for women – and two for men – as “moderate drinking.” This comes out to 12 ounces of five percent beer, five ounces of 12 percent wine and 1.5 ounces of 40 percent alcohol.
Alcohol is still an addictive, dangerous drug for many drinkers, and anyone who has issues with alcohol should avoid consuming red wine or any other alcoholic beverage, period, full stop. Dietary supplements, nonalcoholic beverages, fruits and nuts contain the same antioxidants as red wine. A healthy lifestyle of exercise and balanced eating is the best health benefit of all.
If you or someone you love is dealing with alcoholism, the Florida Detox Helpline is an excellent resource for information, referrals and counseling on substance abuse of any kind. Our counselors can find an appropriate treatment program for your needs. Please contact us today via phone at (855) 920-9869 or online chat if you need help.