Wine & Health
Moderate wine consumption by adults - often as part of a balanced diet - is compatible with a healthy lifestyle. Regular moderate wine consumption has been associated with several health benefits.
Benefits of moderate wine consumption
Alcohol and the heart
Throughout the developed world, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and accounts for up to 50% of all deaths. Consistently, scientific studies are showing that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol reduces mortality from coronary heart disease as well as from other causes by 25-30% in middle-aged individuals, mainly in men aged over 40 years and in post menopausal women.
J-shaped association between total mortality and alcohol consumption
Moderate wine drinkers live longer than those who abstain or drink heavily. This widely accepted association is known as the J-curve The relative risk of dying/mortality is lowest among light to moderate drinkers and greater among abstainers.
However, the risk increases drastically with each drink above moderation. Thus, while one or two glasses can be considered "good for your health", drinking more than this will not provide more benefits, only more harm! .
How does it work?
At least half of the cardio-protective effects of wine are believed to be due to alcohol itself since it changes the balance of fats in the blood favourably
Vascular disease occurs when bad cholesterol (LDL) is deposited in artery walls and builds up, eventually rupturing, causing a clot to form which blocks off the artery, and the tissue supplied by that artery dies.
- Alcohol stimulates the production of the "good" high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) which removes the "bad" low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) from arteries and veins where it can form plaques.
- It also reduces the "stickiness" or the clotting together of red blood cells which could form a clot and block the blood flow in an artery (thrombosis) resulting in a heart attack or stroke
- Furthermore, alcohol has an overall anti-inflammatory effect that affects the blood vessels positively and thus, delays the development of atherosclerosis
Wine, in addition, contains phenolic substances which may act as antioxidants and inhibit bad cholesterol from being incorporated in the artery wall. These antioxidants also reduce the damage caused by the body's free radicals (toxic waste products) which contribute to causing degenerative diseases in the body such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and aging. Antioxidant levels will depend on the processing, filtering as well as on the variety, vintage, altitude and soil.
Resveratrol, quercetin, epicatechin, caffeic acid are the main health-related antioxidants found in wine. The phenolic bioflavonoid compounds give wine its characteristic colour and flavour and are produced by plants in response to fungal infection and various chemical and physical stressors. They support the alcohol effects that were described above.
These findings support the overwhelming and growing body of scientific research indicating that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is associated with lower levels of coronary heart disease as well as with better health and greater longevity.
How much is too much?
Many factors such as age, body mass index, ethnicity, family history, general health status and the use of medications, influence the definition of moderate drinking..
However, based on available international research and different references provided by various public authorities and public health organizations, it is medically accepted that low risk moderate consumption means:
- Up to 2 drinks a day for women
- Up to 3 drinks a day for men
- No more than 4 drinks on any one occasion.
- Alcohol should be avoided in certain situations such as when pregnant, on certain medications or when working machinery
Alcohol consumption: terms of measurement
- 1 Standard Drink Unit (SDU)* represents 10 g of pure alcohol
- This measure equates to 1 glass of wine of 0,1l or 0,2 l.
- For example, wine with 10 vol% = 0.1l = 8 g of alcohol or 0.2 l = 16g
12.5 vol% = 0.1l = appr. 10 g of alc. or 0.2l = 20 g
14 vol% = 0.1l = appr. 11 g of alc. or 0.2l = 22 g
- A standard 75 cl bottle of wine contains 6-8 glasses of wine.
(*) This term indicates the average content of pure alcohol expressed in the most common units of consumption, although serving volumes and consumption guidelines vary across countries.
Importance of drinking pattern
However, not only the drinking volumes but also the drinking patterns which refer to how people drink and the circumstances in which they drink are important.
As scientific research indicates, the regular moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is more beneficial and associated with a lower morbidity and mortality risk than binge drinking the same amount of alcohol for example, just on weekends
Who should not drink?
- young people who have not reached physical maturity,
- pregnant women
- those taking medications that do not combine well with alcohol,
- individuals with a history of addiction or suffering from certain diseases.
C. Stein-Hammer - 8.10.09