It is a common notion that drinking a glass a wine a day is good for our health. The reality is that there may be some benefits, but there are also many risks associated with drinking wine or alcohol in general. Before we discuss the pros and cons, it is important to understand and be aware of the facts. There are a number of things to consider when examining how wine can impact your health:
1) Stay within the low-risk alcohol guidelines;
2) Antioxidants, and more specifically resveratrol appear to be major contributors to health, and;
1. Low-Risk Alcohol Guideline
The Low-Risk Alcohol Guidelines state the following: Women can intake 1 serving per day (e.g., five ounces of wine), with no more than three servings in one sitting, and seven to 15 in one week. While men can intake one to two servings per day with no more than four in one sitting, and 14-17 in one week. Following these guidelines can decrease your risk of developing cons found from drinking alcohol while promoting the possible benefits.
Research has found that the vast majority of the benefits that are potentially associated with wine are from an antioxidant that comes from grape skins called resveratrol. However, a couple of factors come into play when looking at the effectiveness of this antioxidant.
Generally the longer the fermentation process (darker the wine), the more concentrated the number of antioxidants.
Antioxidants like resveratrol are not often well absorbed from wine.
The positive effects are generally short-lived. The effects stop within a short period (e.g., 30 minutes) after you have your last glass.
Finally, resveratrol can be found in a greater concentration, absorbed more efficiently, and consumed without the risk associated with alcohol.
- Young adults
- Research has found the majority of benefits that may be attributed to wine consumption do not exist for men under 60 and premenopausal women. In fact the risks associated with wine consumption far outweigh any benefit that may occur.
- Over 60
- For men, one serving of wine per day may offer protection against heart disease, as long as they are not prone to any of the risk factors.
For women, it is trickier. Wine consumption drastically increases the risk for breast cancer, even though some benefits may be seen for heart disease.
The Pros and Cons
Now that you have a better understanding of the facts surrounding wine, you may be wondering what exactly are the pros and cons. We have listed below most of the major pros and cons that have been substantiated and published in accredited research journals or governing bodies.
- The Pros
- improve memory and decrease mental decline by 23% (women age 70-81)
- lowers risk of dementia
- lowers risk of various blindness diseases
- improves lung function
- boosts the amount of omega 3 in blood
- lowers risk for type II diabetes by 40%
- lowers possible damage from stoke
- reduces risk of ovarian cancer
- reduces risk of colon cancer by 50%
- increases the amount of HDL “good cholesterol” in blood
- lowers amount of LDL “bad cholesterol” in blood
- protects against heart disease in men over 40 and post-menopausal women
- The Cons
- increased risk of breast cancer by 41%
- increased risk of throat, larynx and oesophageal cancer
- increased risk for heart disorders (e.g., weaken heart muscle)
- increased risk for hypertension (high blood pressure)
- increased risk for stroke and brain damage
- increased risk of liver diseases (e.g., cirrhosis, cancer, inflammation)
- increased risk of infertility
- increased risk for libido problems
- increased risk for menstrual problems
- increased risk of nerve/muscle damage
- increased risk of depression and anxiety
- increased risk for pancreatitis
- The Cons continued…
- increased risk of death
- increased risk of sleep deficiency
- increased risk for osteoporosis (pre-menopausal women)
- negates positive heart effects in exercise (men over 40)
- increased risk of violence (1 in 3 violent acts are alcohol related)
- increased risk for accidents
- alcohol-related incidents cost over $185 billion each year
It’s your decision
At the end of the day, you may be ok to have an occasional glass of wine at dinner. But even one glass can increase your risks. It is important to understand why you are choosing to have a glass of wine.
If your primary reason is positive health effects, we recommend picking another source. You can get stronger benefits, without the risks, from foods like grapes and blueberries.
If your primary reason is for enjoyment we recommend:
- Limit your consumption – stop at 2 to 4 servings (5 ounce glasses) in one day. Anything over this drastically increases your risks.
- Don’t drink wine every day – drinking daily can ingrain the behaviour and potentially increase your risk for gradually increasing the amount you consume.
- Drink wine with a meal – wine can help slow the digestion process.
- Understand your family history – make sure you’re aware of addiction issues or health risks in your family.
- Consider it a treat – the calories associated with wine or any alcohol have minimal nutritional value. If you choose to have a glass add it to the “treat” column and consider it to be similar to foods like dessert or unhealthy snacks.
- Want to learn more? Check out Darren’s new self-help book on amazon “Are You Ready? Stop Wishing It Was Friday?” a tale of Alex who changes his life through a chance meeting.
Darren Steeves (MSC, CSCS, CEP)
Darren is passionate about improving the total health of our community. Darren is a professional Exercise Physiologist and has worked in the health and performance field for nearly 25 years. He is a co-owner of a wellness consulting company in Halifax. He has consulted within corporations, with top-level executives, Olympic Medalists, and World Champion athletes and attended the Rio games as a sports scientist with team Canada.
Darren was also one of the original authors of Behavioural Engineering, the theory behind a new behavioral science tool. Lastly, Darren’s first book “Are You Ready? Stop Wishing It Was Friday” written with Sue Comeau is available on Amazon and most e-readers.