If I had a dollar for every client who sent me the link to the article that boasted “a glass of wine is the equivalent to an hour at the gym”, I would have a LOT of money. There are lots of articles and studies that have been released over the years stating that red wine reduces heart disease and there are numerous health benefits to drinking a daily glass of wine.
Are you ready for the truth?
Unfortunately, alcohol is a toxin. When your body breaks down wine, it releases toxins that damage your cells. The more you drink, the more damage is done, especially to your liver. Most of the alcohol we consume is broken down by the liver, making it “especially vulnerable to damage from excessive alcohol,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.
For years we've been hearing that drinking wine boosts HDL (“good” cholesterol), reduces inflammation, makes nitric oxide more bioavailable, and provides other benefits that, combined, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. A lot of this research was crediting resveratrol. And there is truth to this. Resveratrol is a polyphenol and is healthy for your heart. But the amount found in wine is very small. The amount you need to consume doesn’t off-set the damage done by the toxins consumed. Dang it.
After looking at the alcohol intake and brain markers of 589 multiethnic adults, researchers of a 2014 study published in Clinical Nutrition concluded that “light to moderate alcohol consumption is potentially beneficial for brain aging, but replication is needed.” Those last six words are key, as the vast majority of studies on wine and cognition have been done on people 55 and older.
Within this group, a consistent finding is that light to moderate consumption (one to two drinks per day) is associated with beneficial cognitive function and lower dementia risk. There is evidence that drinking in your 30s and 40s may have some associated benefits with higher cognitive function later in life. This is still just an association and experts can't prove why moderate alcohol intake may improve cognitive function or lower dementia risk.
What about the connection between wine and fighting cancer? Remember those studies? Unfortunately, recent studies are warning that alcohol consumption can increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly breast cancer. At the end of May, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) published a report saying that there is strong evidence that alcohol can increase the risk of breast cancer. Alcohol can raise blood estrogens in both pre- and post-menopausal women, and high blood estrogens have been linked to increased breast cancer risk. Also, the World Health Organization classifies alcohol as a carcinogen.
So, what’s the take-away? While wine isn’t medicine, there’s no reason why we can’t enjoy a glass (or two) every once in a while. (I know I will.)