Should I have That Glass of Wine?
People have used alcohol in one form or another since prehistoric times.
For centuries red wine in light to moderate
amounts has been included in the Mediterranean diet with meals. I tend to favour red wine, a time-honoured
component of the healthy Mediterranean diet. It’s too soon to tell if non alcoholic grape juice is just
So how does alcohol work in the
body? Unlike most foods, alcohol is not digested; 95 percent of it is absorbed into the bloodstream from the
stomach and small intestine within an hour. The other 5 percent is eliminated thought the kidneys, lungs or skin.
The liver breaks down, or metabolises alcohol. The time this takes depends upon whether the alcohol is ingested
with food and the person’s sex, weight, body type and tolerance level, which increases with time and use. On
average, however it takes the liver 3 to 5 hours to completely metabolise 30 mil of alcohol.
Red wine is a rich source of
resveratrol, which is thought to be a major contributor to the heart-healthy benefits associated with alcohol
consumption. Red wine in particular appears to prolong lifespan by reducing heart attacks by raising HDL (good)
cholesterol and reducing the risk of blood clot formation. It is believed that oxidation of LDL’s (bad cholesterol)
is what causes blood vessels to clog and form clots. Alcohol may reduce C-reactive protein, a marker of arterial
inflammation. These effects could be what reduce cardiovascular disease.
Alcohol thins the blood and
this helps prevent clots from jamming tiny blood vessels in the brain and therefore possibly reduces the risk of
It seems to stimulate the
release of acetylcholine, a brain chemical involved in learning and memory. It diminishes Alzheimer’s and other
The antioxidant polyphenols,
may protect the body from some cancers.
Alcohol can also significantly
lower the risk of diabetes. In these small amounts it can aid digestion and improve appetite.
How much do we drink to achieve
these health benefits? These benefits are from 5 ounces of wine per day for a woman, and for a man, 12 ounces
of beer, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof distilled spirits (e.g., vodka, whiskey, gin).
I have no intention of
promoting the benefits of alcohol to the tee-totaler. Alcohol is clearly a huge risk for those drinking above
light to moderate level.
More than 1 – 2 glasses of
alcohol will cause high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias, liver disease, stroke, dementia, and several kinds of
cancer including cancer of the liver, pancreas, oesophagus and mouth. A higher risk of breast cancer is clearly
aligned with consumption of even one or two drinks daily and three or more alcoholic drinks per day elevates to
high breast cancer risk. These risks clearly outweigh the benefits if breast cancer runs in your family. Alcohol
can also interfere with the body’s metabolism of various vitamins and minerals. Heavy drinkers have higher rates of violent and accidental death. Always check
with your personal physician if you take any medications or have chronic medical conditions.
Alcohol as a “food” is habit
forming and over-indulgence has major challenges. Be cautious if there are alcoholics in your family as you may
have inherited the predisposition. Alcoholism can be fatal.
You should not drink alcohol if
have a history of alcohol abuse or
have liver or pancreas
are pregnant or trying to become
will be driving an
may have the need to operate
dangerous equipment or machinery
have a demonstrated inability to
limit yourself to acceptable
have personal prohibitions due to
religious, ethical, or other
Even though it is true that
there are clearly risks involved with alcohol consumption a study published in the American Journal of Medicine showed a 38% lower
risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiovascular disease in middle-aged Americans who started a
judicious alcohol habit.