Health benefits of drinking wine: Myth or reality?

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Health benefits of drinking wine

Drinking alcohol (and wine is no exception) increases such risks as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver damage, suicide and accidents.

More and more health businesses are inviting people to stay for wine tasting after yoga practice, Thai exercises, or even an hour of deep relaxing meditation. Is this business strategy the result of both a misinterpretation of research and propaganda that talks of presumable health benefits of drinking wine in moderation?

This year in January, Dipak Das, director of the Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center (UCHC) in Farmington was found guilty of falsifying and fabricating data in papers and grant applications. Das studied the health effects of drinking wine (including one of its components, resveratrol).

Das’ papers documenting the benefits of chemicals in wine have been cited everywhere. However, peer researchers haven’t been able to replicate the results.

Repeat after me: Alcohol is your foe, not your friend

So far, what is clear is that drinking alcohol (and wine is no exception) increases such risks as alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, liver damage, suicide and accidents.

We tend to be benign with those who drink in solitude, have a drink at a definite time of the day, and usually limit drinking to one or two glasses of wine a day, even if they use it for the wrong reasons like to manage stress, feel good or avoid feeling bad.

Our image of an alcoholic is that of someone who has trouble controlling the amount of alcohol they drink, and whose drinking interferes with work, family and social life.

Disregarding the effect of chronic use of this drug (yes, technically, alcohol is a drug) on the body is one of the red flags that characterizes alcoholism. Not listening to warnings, advice or concern from friends or relatives is another red flag.

Drinking wine, good for you, really?

Ever since Naturemagazine published studies 10 years ago concluding that drinking wineone (women) or two (men) glasses a daycould explain the “French paradox,” wine drinkers found a rationale for sipping.

One concerning aspect of the report has been that moderate alcoholics, those who cannot do without their daily doses, who never acknowledge their alcohol dependence (mostly because they seldom get drunk or annoy others) keep referring to Das’ research, swearing that a small amount of alcohol is actually beneficial.

The American Heart Association has stated that, “No direct comparison trials have been done to determine the specific effect of wine or other alcohol on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke.”

Misreading and misinterpreting research on drinking wine?

Health effects of drinking wine

Approximately 80,000 people die because of excessive alcohol use each year in the U.S. only, making it the third leading lifestyle related cause of death. (Shutterstock photos)

If you browse a little you’ll find several articles stating that the CDC “recommends” or “deems healthy” to drink in moderation.

But what the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010), say is, “If alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation – up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.” It has mistakenly been interpreted as a green light to drink regularly.

But drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage is no joke.

Approximately 80,000 people die because of excessive alcohol use each year in the U.S. only, making it the third leading lifestyle related cause of death.

According to the CDC, “Excessive alcohol use is responsible for 2.3 million years of potential life lost (YPLL) annually, or an average of about 30 years of potential life lost for each death.And “The economic costs of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006 were estimated at $223.5 billion.”

From a cup of wine to alcoholism

People drinking wine or any type of alcoholic beverage in moderation tend not to be aware that alcohol creates a chemical dependency. Our body’s chemistry gets accustomed to the effects of the drug.

Naturally occurring neurotransmitters in the brain are released in response to the ingestion of alcohol.

A common effect of regular alcohol use is a buildup of fat and scar tissue in the liver that ends up seriously compromising its function.

Alcohol depresses the central nervous system. In small concentrations, alcohol reduces inhibition, prompting a mild euphoria, sociability or self-confidence but at the same time, it rapidly impairs attention, judgment and control.

Over time a person who consumes alcohol regularly develops metabolic tolerance: alcohol will be metabolized faster and a higher amount is needed in order to experience the same effects. This leads to alcohol dependence.

The CDC answers NO to the question, “Is drinking wine or beer safer than drinking liquor?”

“One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.”

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