Who doesn’t love a glass of read with a really good steak? Or a bottle of white shared with friends after a long day at work? We’re mostly agreed that, in moderation, the odd glass of alcohol is fine, but there has long been conflicting evidence over whether wine is just ok, or actively good for us.
Medical researchers Adrian Baranchuk, Professor of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario, and students Bryce Alexander and Sohaib Haseeb, have published an in-depth analysis of the anatomy of wine to get into the nitty gritty around the risks and benefits of drinking it, and why it’s come to be associated with good health.
The key findings:
The team looked at the ‘French paradox’ – so named because in France, where red wine, cheese, bread and butter are eaten regularly, there are lower rates of ischemic (or coronary) heart disease . However, in a piece they wrote for The Conversation, , the researchers note that “drinking patterns, lifestyle characteristics and dietary intake are all important for individuals to obtain a healthy cardiovascular profile.”
The same goes for the much-recommended Mediterranean diet, where the whole picture should be accounted for: “In the Mediterranean diet, the low-consumption of saturated fat, emphasis on a healthy lifestyle, and more independently, alpha-linoleic acid (an essential fatty acid) and red wine, may allow this diet to confer the much-researched cardio-protective benefits.”
Meanwhile, looking at an overview of studies, they discovered there are certainly links between red wine – which contains anti-inflammatory and antioxidant polyphenols – and positive effects on cholesterol, inflammation, blood pressure.
So how much should you drink?
The British Heart Foundation notes that excessive drinking can cause abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, damage to your heart muscle, stroke, liver problems and some cancers.
They advocate that if/when you do drink, you keep within the NHS and government’s recommended guidelines:
- Men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol each week.
- You should have several alcohol-free days each week.
- If you do drink as much as 14 units per week, spread this out evenly over three days or more.
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol in one go can cause additional damage to your body, so avoid heavy or ‘binge’ drinking – you can’t save up your units.
- If you drink too much, avoid alcohol for 48 hours to allow your body time to recover.
“For wine drinkers too, definitive answers on wine and health remain elusive,” say the Queen’s University experts, in summary. “And as all the guidelines say, one or two glasses of red wine tonight will be just fine.” Moderation it seems – whether you follow a Mediterranean diet or not – is key.
If you are concerned about your heart, or your health overall, always speak to your GP.