Wine. What role does it play in my health journey?

That may sound like a stupid statement, when it is obvious to us all that the key to good health is moderation. Sure. But there is also a strong argument to suggest that alcohol really doesn’t contribute too much…..sure red wine has a few antioxidants to speak of, but in the overall scheme of things alcohol is not really considered to be ‘nutritious’. Therefore, what role does it play in my journey to long term health?

You see I have this ongoing mental battle about wine. I love wine, I would go so far as to say I am pretty damn passionate about it. I follow blogs about wine, try to get to wine regions as often as I can to sample wine, endeavour to grow my knowledge about all things wine related. To me, a special meal is just not complete without an equally special vino to accompany it.

So there it is, the conflict. How can someone be so passionate about health, long term health, optimising health through diet and even medicinal nutritional therapy, yet also passionate about something that is argued to be detrimental to health, and counter-active to all of the nutritious food that I feed my body?

There is a mound of evidence to suggest that regular and moderate wine consumption can be beneficial to human health. A review of wine’s role in human health by Guilford & Pezzuto (2011) suggests that through the alcohol and polyphenol content of wine, it may have lipid regulation, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. These properties of wine suggest it may help protect against cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and neurological disorders. A recent study by Arranz, Chiva-Blanch & Lamuela-Raventos (2013) supports the notion that in healthy people, moderate alcohol intake (particularly polyphenolic containing beverages such as wine and beer) can confer protection against cardiovasuclar disease.

In fact, it has been estimated that wine has been used for medicinal purposes since 2200 BC, making it one of the oldest known medicines (Robinson, 2006). It is suggested that despite alcohol being a known carcinogen, there is evidence to suggest that wine consumption may decrease the risk of several cancers including colon, ovarian, prostate and basal cell carcinoma.

Many of these studies suggest that moderate wine consumption is not just better than drinking too much, but also too little, with the benefits of drinking a glass of wine per day actually outweighing the benefits you may expect in avoiding wine entirely!

Woohoo! So there is definitely some strong evidence to suggest that wine (red wine in particular) can be beneficial to our health in moderate amounts. Moderate intakes are the key here, but what does that mean? Alot of these studies refer to a ‘glass of wine’ or ‘moderate intakes’ but don’t outline what the specific amount is. This is probably for a good reason, our bodies metabolise alcohol differently, there isn’t really one size fits all in terms of how much alcohol is good for you.

So thinking about how this all applies to my life, I am thinking does ‘moderate’ mean make sure you have your recommended ‘two alcohol free days a week’? Does it mean having a maximum of two alcoholic drinks in any one day? Does that include weekends???? Because if so, I am in trouble.

Current recommendations in Australia tell us that:

  • For healthy men and women, drinking no more than two standard drinks on any day reduces your risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury over a lifetime.

A standard drink is considered to be one that contains 10 grams of alcohol. In wine terms, that is around 100 mls. I can categorically tell you that most people would not define a “glass of wine” as 100 mls. So here is the problem! How much is too much? How quickly is the decline down the slippery slope on the other side, from “wine is protecting your heart” to “alcohol contributes to morbidity and mortality”?

Not sure, I am going to read up more about it and will probably post about it again. But for now, I am going to keep on keepin’ on with my love for wine. It’s my vice (well, one of them). And for all of the effort that I put into my health I am taking this back, a few vinos per week, completely guilt free 🙂 Now, it’s probably time for a wee tipple…..

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