IS WINE HEALTHY FOR YOU? YES, AND NO.
ILLUSTRATION BY LUCY ENGELMAN
For most wine drinkers, the stuff is fine with or without health benefits. But for what it’s worth, years of research have culminated in the idea that wine might do some good things for your health.
Also, for what it’s worth, years of research also say that maybe wine is not so good for your health.
Who’s right? Everyone, a little. Does it matter? Maybe, a little.
Before we go too far down this path, a couple things, starting with the most important: I am not a medical professional, scientist, or researcher. I have no connections to the health field. Do not take medical advice from me. (Don’t take financial advice either, but that’s a different column.) I’m just reporting what’s been reported.
Also, as is often the case with these types of studies, most have a narrow focus and are generally disconnected from other similar or contradictory studies. Such is science.
SO HERE’S WHAT WE KNOW, STARTING WITH THE GOOD NEWS:
Research has linked moderate wine drinking to health benefits that might include — notice the equivocation — lower risk of heart attack and heart disease; stroke; dementia; cancers including colon, prostate, and breast; and cataracts. Studies have connected wine with improving blood vessel health and raising the level of omega-3 fatty acids in red bloods cells and plasma.
Many, but not all, of the health benefits are connected to resveratrol, a compound some plants produce to fight bacteria and fungi. Resveratrol is found in grape skins, blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts, among other foods, and in red wine more than white because reds get skin contact during fermentation.
NOW THE BAD NEWS:
Studies also have linked even moderate wine drinking to a number of cancers, saying it might increase the risk of liver, laryngeal, esophageal, colorectal, and other cancers. Some studies suggest wine can increase the risk of breast cancer — directly contradicting the studies that say it might reduce that.
SO WHERE DOES THAT LEAVE US, BESIDES CONFUSED?
Actually, there is some solid ground upon which most experts agree: moderate consumption. That means one five-ounce glass a day for women and two for men (who generally are bigger and metabolize alcohol a bit differently). The volume can average out some, but binge drinking all weekend, then drying out midweek is not moderate.
These kinds of studies have been conducted for decades and have been fairly consistent, meaning the evidence suggesting some health benefits with moderate wine drinking is legit. But, and this is key, those benefits disappear quickly when people drink more than moderately — and there is no doubt too much alcohol causes damage in many ways.
So how about this: Don’t look at wine as a miracle cure for anything — except, maybe, as a momentary antidote to a bad day at work. Don’t overdo it; just enjoy a glass or two with friends or food, and relish the richness wine can add to life. That’s got to have some benefit.