Drink to Your Health...Just Not Too Much!

The health benefits of wine, particularly red wine, have been discussed and studied for decades now.  Does it really make a big difference in the longevity of the human race?  There are all kinds of examples that would seem to suggest it, as long as it is consumed regularly and in small quantities.

Take, as one example, the mystery of the French Paradox---the apparent fact that although the French consume very high amounts of animal fats, they have some of the lowest obesity and heart disease rates among first world countries.  Some say it’s not a mystery at all---that the French don’t really have the secret to lower cardiovascular disease, but that saturated fats don’t actually have much to do with heart disease after all.  Others claim that it is any combination of several factors that converge to give the French the upper hand in the heart disease category.  They have a diet high in fat and produce, but low in trans fat and processed foods; they don’t rush their meals, but savor them and are more satiated because of it; they drink more red wine (although that is simply not true, there are other countries that consume more per capita); they have a diet high in omega fatty acids and low in hydrogenated oils and sugar; they eat smaller portions and don’t eat snacks; they have a government-implemented regimen of high-quality food for babies and children that goes all the way back to the Franco-Prussian War.  Although drinking red wine seems to be part of it, studies have shown that the effects of polyphenols and anthocyanins inside the body are inconclusive, and while resveratrol (found in red wine) does seem to promote longevity, there is not enough of it found in wine to be of any real importance just by drinking some everyday.  However, we have found that drinking a small amount of red wine every day has a better effect on your heart than drinking too much or not drinking any at all.

Moderate consumption of wine is deemed as (1) 5oz glass per day for women and 2 glasses for men, according to most health experts.  Alcohol seems to be the component in wine that affects health the most.  Excessive consumption has been shown to lead to poor bone density, cancer, heart disease, depression, stroke, and headaches.  Moderate consumption, on the other hand, has been shown to increase bone density, reduce LDL (bad cholesterol), prevent arterial blockage, prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes, has an antibacterial effect on the stomach and prevents gallstones, and can reduce caloric consumption when consumed with food.  So, although excessive alcohol consumption in general is the third leading cause of death in the United States, drinking a moderate amount on a daily basis can be beneficial in many ways.

Of course, studies are still being done on exactly why drinking just the right amount of wine can be healthy, but I think it harkens back to the old adage of “everything in moderation”.  To demonstrate that, I’ll leave you with the story of Jeanne Calment (yes, a French woman), who was 122 years old when she died in 1997, and she still holds the longest confirmed human lifespan record.  She lived in the same town in France her whole life, and claimed to never have been sick.  Her diet seemed to be rather habitual throughout her life, and in her final decades, her whole life was dictated by rituals---eating the same foods, doing everything at the same time everyday, etc.  Although she smoked a couple of cigarettes every night in her old age (it is not known whether she actually inhaled or not), it is worth noting that among the few foods she would eat daily was a small glass of port wine after dinner.  Whether or not this helped prolong her life in her later years, it seems that moderation and habit are at play here. So why not make a habit out of having a glass of wine (preferably Aristo) every night?