Is drinking wine healthy for you?
You may have heard it floating around that wine is good for you and your heart, and that there are some health benefits to drinking wine. Some of what you hear may be wishful thinking, and some of what you hear may, in fact, be true.
It is worth mentioning that obviously binge drinking wine, or in general, should be avoided as rather than having health benefits, binge drink simply promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. However, drinking wine in moderation (1-2 units per day) can have some benefits for the health of your heart, according to the British heart foundation.
This guide is focussed around wine specifically, and not other alcohols such as vodka, gin, brandy and so on.
Fact or False?
There has long been confusion and discussion surrounding the risks and benefits that comes with drinking wine and the effect that it has on your health.
To cut to the chase, in reality drinking in moderation has shown signs of protection against heart disease. Great! However, this is only really applicable for men aged 40 and over and post-menopausal women. Furthermore, the benefits can only be referred to as fact if one consumes just five units a week; in other words, that is just two standard glasses of wine per week.
Meanwhile, there is very little evidence that drinking wine, or any other type of alcohol for that matter, will improve or contribute towards good health in young people , who are at a smaller risk of heart disease anyway.
The British Heart Foundation claim that low levels of alcohol consumption may actually have some protective effects on the heart for some people. However, there are far better ways to achieve this, such as:
- Quitting smoking entirely
- Regularly exercising
- Keeping to a balanced and healthy diet
- Staying hydrated
- Addressing other issues related such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
To avoid any risk to your health if you do drink most weeks, both men and women are advised not to regularly drink more than 14 units a week. If you do find that you enjoy drinking as much as 14 units per week, it is advised to spread out the drinking over a minimum of three days or more with some non-alcoholic drinking days in the week.
Do not panic and pour all your wine down the drain! It is true that research has found that red wine contains several antioxidants, such as quercetin and resveratrol, which may play a minor role in helping to prevent heart disease.
Recently, scientists have that that wine, specifically red wine, has a higher level of polyphenols and antioxidants. And by rule of thumb, the darker the wine, the higher the antioxidant content. In tests done, it was the cabernet sauvignon grapes were shown to contain the most polyphenols.
It has been found that wines from milder regions such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rioja and California’s Napa Valley, may include higher antioxidant levels compared to wines from hotter regions such as southern Italy or Languedoc in France.
The health benefits are not nearly as high in white wine than they are in red wine, but some research has found that white wine has got some. The creation of a chardonnay called Paradoxe Blanc by wine makers actually has four times higher levels of polyphenols than red wine.
Bring drinking is a no go
According to the source Alcohol Concern, around nine million people in England alone drink over the amount recommended on the government guidelines.
Binge drinking is dangerous in many ways. It disrupts sleep, clouds your judgement and potentially negatively interacts with prescription medication. High levels of alcohol can also impact nutrition by ultimately inhibiting absorption of certain nutrients including the B group of vitamins – most significantly, Folate. Overall, this can make one far more susceptible to heart disorders, including high blood pressure and a stroke – even when not in a high risk group or age group. Heavily drinking can lead to osteoporosis later in life for women who drink to excess in their twenties.
The most harmful aspect of binge drinking is the damage it can do to your brain. Regularly heavily drinking is associated with a wide variety of other kinds of health problems, which include problems such as; liver disease, loss of libido, menstrual problems, nerve and muscle damage. Furthermore, binge drinking can be the catalyst for or contribute to mental health problems such as clinical depression or severe anxiety.
Worryingly, alcohol is thought to be responsible for around 4% of all cases of UK cancer. People who drink four or more alcoholic drinks a day, which is the equivalent to six units per day, are more likely to develop cancer in the form of cancer of the mouth, larynx or oesophagus.
Units – how much are you drinking?
Use this guide to see how many units are in your glass or bottle of wine.
Be aware that when ordering a glass of wine whilst in a bar or restaurant you will often be served a measure larger than 125ml.
- 9% alcohol by volume = 1 unit
- 10% abv = 1.25 units
- 11% abv = 1.375 units
- 12% abv = 1.5 units
- 13% abv = 1.625 units
- 14% abv = 1.75 units
Overall, please keep in mind that while wine, specifically red wine, does have some health benefits, it should still be consumed in moderation. The negative effects of excessive or binge drinking massively outweigh the positive health benefits that wine can potentially provide when not abused.
While drinking wine is not as healthy as regular exercise, or eating a wholesome, healthy and balanced diet, it does come with some benefits for your health that other types of alcohol do not.
When drinking wine, or any alcohol, remember to always drink one glass of water per glass of wine – as alcohol is extremely dehydrating and this can make you feel awful in the morning to say the least!