Is Red Wine Really Good for Your Health?


(Spectrumbot) #1

In the past several years, both in the media and in scientific literature, many articles were written to address the influence of drinking alcoholic beverages, especially red wine, on human health. Most of these articles dealt with the effect of red wine on cardiovascular disease. Epidemiological studies have shown that the French have a relatively low rate of deaths due to cardiovascular diseases compared with Americans and some other European countries, despite similar consumption of saturated fat in the diet. The fact that the French do not seem to get heart disease as often as Americans is attributed to them drinking more red wine.

The beneficial effect of red wine on cardiovascular disease is associated particularly with two compounds: resveratrol and saponins. One of the first experiments that investigated the impact of resveratrol on cardiovascular disease has shown that it lowers the risk of heart disease. However, the problem turned out to be how to translate the results of this research to humans. The study was conducted on mice, which were given a dose of 24 mg of resveratrol per each kilogram of body weight. Red wine contains about 0.2 to 3 mg of resveratrol per liter (this content depends on several factors). Thus, to achieve a similar effect, a person weighing 70 kilograms (about 150 lbs) would have to drink at least a few hundred to a few thousand bottles of wine each day. However, subsequent studies confirmed that resveratrol actually has a protective effect for the heart, and that alcohol improves the elasticity of the blood vessels and increases the so-called good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol). That is why many health promoters (including some cardiologists) started recommending drinking a moderate amount of red wine to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The position of the American Heart Association, which does not recommend drinking red wine or other alcoholic beverages as a means of lowering the risk of heart disease, may come as a surprise for many people. The position of this organization is based on the fact that there are at least a few problems associated with alcohol consumption. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of hypertension, stroke, becoming overweight, and developing many types of cancers, including breast, larynx, esophagus, mouth, liver, and colon. Furthermore, people who drink alcohol are more likely to commit suicide, have a higher risk of motor vehicle accidents and alcohol addiction. High consumption of alcohol is also linked with depression, insomnia, kidney disease, and increased risk of nutritional deficiencies (including protein, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, vitamins A, C, D, B1, B2, and B6).

As mentioned above, the French have a lower risk of developing coronary heart disease and some other types of circulatory health problems. However, what is often overlooked when discussing disease prevalence among the French is that they have one of the highest rates of liver cirrhosis among all residents of European countries. In addition, the World Health Organization estimated that the mortality rate as a result of drinking alcohol in France is about one third higher than the average mortality rate caused by drinking alcoholic beverages in Western Europe.

At the end of 2007, two prestigious organizations, the World Cancer Research Fund and the National Cancer Research Institute, jointly published a document entitled “Food, nutrition, physical activity and the prevention of cancer, a global perspective.” This more than 500-page document was based on over 10,000 scientific manuscripts containing eight simple recommendations that, according to these organizations, will contribute to the reduction of the risk of developing cancer. The sixth of them reads: “From the point of view of cancer prevention, the best dose of alcohol consumption is zero.” This recommendation is consistent with the latest review of research on the impact of alcohol on cancer, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The results of this review indicate that the greater the consumption of alcohol, the greater the risk of developing the following cancers: oral (about 29 percent), esophagus (22 percent), larynx (about 44 percent), rectum (10 percent), liver (24 percent), and breast (about 12 percent). This review is one of the most important documents on the impact of alcohol on cancer due to the fact that it is based on research with a very large number of people (over 1 million). According to this meta-analysis, the risk of getting cancer increases proportionally to the amount of alcohol ingested. The following chart presents data on the risk of cancer of the various organs on the basis of the above-mentioned meta-analysis.

The cardio protective effects of red wine are believed to be associated with the content of saponins and resveratrol. Red wine contains about 7.5 mg of saponins per cup. It should be noted, however, that saponins can be found in many other products such as chickpeas, lentils, soybeans, kidney beans, peanuts, peas, sesame seeds, oatmeal, asparagus, spinach, and many others. Resveratrol, on the other hand, can be found primarily in the skin of red grapes (this is why resveratrol is found in red wine). Smaller quantities of resveratrol are also found in soybeans and peanuts. Thus, both of these phytochemicals can be obtained from sources other than red wine.

In order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, the American Heart Association recommends lowering cholesterol, blood pressure, decreasing body weight, increasing physical activity, and eating a healthy diet. The American Heart Association also states that currently there is no evidence that drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage can replace these recommendations. A diet based on plant products such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains is one of the best methods to reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular and other chronic diseases, such as cancer or diabetes. Even if moderate consumption of red wine may be protective for the heart, it increases the risk of some other health conditions, such as liver cirrhosis and cancer of several organs. Thus, heart disease prevention can be better achieved by adhering to a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.

Roman Pawlak, Ph.D, RD is an Associate Professor of Nutrition at East Carolina University in North Carolina. He is the author of several books including Forever Young. Secrets of Delaying Aging and Living Disease Free, Healthy Diet without Secrets, In Defense of Vegetarianism, and I Am the Lord Who Heals You, and a co-author of Vegetarian Mother and Her Baby.

Photo by Kym Ellis on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8750

(Pagophilus) #2

That the guidelines don’t recommend non-drinkers take up drinking to reduce their risk shows you that the benefits of alcohol don’t outweigh the risks.

Further, many studies are done to try to justify people’s vices e.g. studies on the supposed benefits of chocolate.


#3

It is interesting to note that the benefit is derived from resveratrol (NOT the alcohol) in the red wine. Hence grape-juice is a much better option, given the damaging effects of alcohol.


(Charles Scriven) #4

Helpful and, to me, convincing. I hope someone will chime in who is doubtful about the author’s argument. I don’t want my enthusiasm to be simple-minded.

Chuck


(Ron Osborn) #5

“One extra glass of wine will shorten your life by 30 minutes…drinking is as harmful as smoking.”

I found this recent article in the Guardian about the results of a major new study published in the Lancet even more sobering (pun intended).


(Peter) #6

Balance! You can harm yourself by eating too much fat (cheese, etc.), too much “sugar” (refined OR in fruit), etc. These can also shorten your life. But sometimes we eat them because we enjoy them. My doctor has advised me to cut back on fruit and other high carbohydrate foods to help me live longer.

I believe the same applies to wine. Too much can harm you. Using it occasionally will not likely shorten your life anymore than consuming other “good” foods in balance.

Thus, I don’t see this study as a means of confirming that drinking a sensible amount of wine is a “sin”.


(Roman) #7

Balance is important, no questions about it. For me, faithfulness is even more important. When I have decided to follow Jesus and I requested to be baptized, my confession of faith including agreeing that I would not be drinking, manufacturing or selling any alcoholic beverages (this tells you how old I am, sadly, we don’t use this type of confession of faith any longer).
As for a “new study” we must keep in mind each time we hear of a new study that studies are not always like cell phones, newer isn’t always better. I don’t know how this applies to the one mentioned as I have not read it, but I do know that, regardless of the findings, I will stay faithful to the profession of faith I have agreed to follow.


(jeremy) #8

true adventism has always meant no alcohol, as opposed to moderate alcohol, given the ministry of egw…it’s good that this article is able to show that this makes sense…


(Steve Mga) #9

Alcohol metabolism does occur thanks to the Liver. [the Liver does over 500 activities for us]
Using Alcohol in addition to all the other things that go into the body that passes through the
Liver puts a burden on it.
So that is WHY I think one should decide if they are going to use an alcohol containing
product at all. [irregardless of religious belief]
EVERY DAY should be – BE KIND TO MY LIVER – day. And also – BE KIND TO MY KIDNEYS –
day. Celebrate a BE KIND TO MY LUNGS day every day.
One does not have to have a Religious Belief to do these.


(Brad(Luna)) #10

So based on the conclusion, the evidence is indecisive and it shouldn’t be used as a substitute for other good health practices. That’s fine, and good advice. My problem isn’t with the health aspect but rather with the rather recent belief that alcohol is anti Christian.

Church history disagrees with 19th century ideas. Alcohol has always been a part of Christian culture(with the church being the main brewer of beer as well!) Obviously the church and the Bible have always encouraged moderation as in all things.

I also love this hilarious quote from Martin Luther. Kind of an old school LGT. :smiley: "Whoever drinks beer, he is quick to sleep; whoever sleeps long, does not sin; whoever does not sin, enters Heaven! Thus, let us drink beer!”


(Roman) #11

Hm, I am not sure if the anti alcohol idea is a relatively modern thing. The last book of the Bible was written in the 1st century. I don’t find any encouragement of moderate drinking in the Scriptures.
Church history is a history of apostasy and as such, should not be used as an argument for a given practice.


(Brad(Luna)) #12

It’s throughout, despite what some groups trying to tell you its grape juice.

Just a short list would include: 1 Timothy 5:23, John 2:3-11. Ecclesiastes 9:7, Deuteronomy 14:26, Luke 7:33-34 and a lot of others.

Teetotalism is a rather new position that rose out of the 19th century temperance movement and the social problems of whiskey(people drank far more in those days than they do today, even).

The Bible is consistently opposed to severe drunkenness of course. This is a position the church pretty much stayed consistent on throughout history. You can’t just dismiss all of history by saying it’s a bunch of apostasy. No movement, especially Adventism, is born in a historical vacuum.


(Daryll Ward) #13

Having spent 11 years in various professional roles in the treatment of alcoholism and drug addiction I can say with total confidence that drinking alcohol is a high risk behavior. Of the thousands of alcoholics treated in the various facilities with which I worked not a single one ever chose to become an alcoholic. Furthermore, the vast majority were consciously determined not to let alcohol control their lives. Their determination was no match for alcohol. Nevertheless the majority of alcohol users maintain control of their use. And as others have noted here there is no biblical basis for total abstinence – other than the biblical demand to treat one’s body as the temple of God. Choosing not to drink is simply prudent. Dr. Pawlak has produced a very helpful and clearly thoroughly informed analysis of the popular claim that drinking red wine is good for your heart/health. On balance, it is not.

One way to grasp the risk involved is to apply the fact that very conservatively 10% of alcohol users become alcoholic, i.e. when they drink they have problems. So imagine that one airplane in 10 out of the flights originating in your closest airport crashed at their destination killing everyone on board. Would you go to that airport and board a plane? Those are your odds if you drink.


#14

@c_scriven

I’ll take the bait. What unfortunately this author (and every SDA article I’ve ever read on the subject) fails to note is that cardiovascular disease has a very high incident rate (around 25% of deaths each year in the USA) while the rates for the various cancers linked to alcohol are much lower. So IF you are at risk for cardiovascular disease then a 20% lowering of that risk might be a good trade off vs a doubling of risk for something much rarer. SDA authors like to give the high rate increases (as the chart shows in this article) while failing to point out the relative risks because of the huge difference in incidence rates. Its this failure to clearly explain the numbers that leaves a tinge of dishonesty in these discussions.

I’m not BTW advocating for alcohol consumption, I think the research so far is actually not very conclusive. Exercise likely trounces alcohol for cardiovascular health, so why not do that instead?


(Roman) #15

Sorry to state it as I see it but you read biblical passages with the 21st century state of mind rather than trying to understand what the passages said to the reader to whom it was addressed. You find an alcoholic wine in passages that are clearly not referring them that kind of wine. And, may I point out that it does not take much to see that. For example, Deut. 14, 26 is in the context of Deut. 14, 23 where the author refers to “new wine” and nowhere in the Bible “new wine” is referring to an alcoholic beverage.


(Roman) #16

HawaiiTF,
I will answer your statement in 3 ways:

  1. Where did you get the 20% reduction of CVD?
  2. The data in the figure is given as Relative Risk. This, however, does not mean that the risk must be smaller. It can be smaller or higher. For example, the relative risk for each 25 grams intake of alcohol increases the risk by RR 1.86 (86%) with relative risk of 1.76 to 1.96. So, the impact may actually be higher than 1.86. Also, for every single dose, even the smallest, and for every single site, the relative risk was statistically significant.
  3. The newest data show that 3.5% of all cancers are due to alcohol intake. This means about 20,000 people died due to drinking. The point I was trying to make in the article is that these data are hardly ever mentioned when the issue of alcohol/wine drinking is brought up. There are better ways of preventing CVD, which can also prevent cancer. So, I don’t quite get your criticism.

(Roman) #17

Off to Africa for the next 3.5 weeks, likely with no wifi to connect and comment here.


(Brad(Luna)) #18

A 21st century state of mind…You do realize alcohol is an old as agriculture…right?


(Roman) #19

I do. But in order to interpret an ancient literature, such as the Scriptures, you need to be able to understand the language and culture of the time rather than just superficially read the text.


#20

@Cobalamin

  1. 20% was just a number in the range of what some of the pro-alcohol studies have claimed. See this one for example:

I’m well aware of the ambiguity in multiple studies on the subject. But you can find examples in this range. The above UK study actually claims around 1/3 so a bit more than 20%.

  1. Yes, I was pointing out that the problem with the graph is precisely that it shows relative risk of specific cancers vs alcohol consumption, but does NOT show what the risk of those cancers is vs cardiovascular disease. That is my entire point. Cardiovascular disease is rampant, none of the cancers on that chart are. Which is why -0.2 x rampant might be much more of interest than +2.0 or +3.0 x rare. All I’m trying to point out is that IF a given course of action (be it alcohol or a prescription drug for example) lowers your risk of X by 20%, while increasing your risk of Y by 200%, then clearly you must first look at how likely X and Y are before deciding on the merits of the cure. This article, and every other one I’ve ever seen by an SDA author on the subject of alcohol and cardiovascular disease, fails to point this out. Instead, they like to point out the 300 and 400% increase in the risk of relatively rare cancers. Nobody is arguing that cancers of the upper GI aren’t highly linked to alcohol. Its just that those cancers are pretty rare even with alcohol consumption. CVD is pretty common.
  2. Yeah, 20,000 deaths due to cancer from alcohol vs >600K due to cardiovascular disease. So IF alcohol lowered CVD deaths by 20% that would be 0.2 x 600K = 120K less due to CVD, and almost ALL your 20K deaths from alcohol will be from those consuming more than the amount needed to lower CVD by 20%. That is what I’m trying to point out. SDA’s never do this math. Why?

I do agree completely, as I already stated, that there are likely better ways to improve CVD than alcohol anyway. But some of that might be dependent on the individual. And of course alcohol carries a great risk of addiction for many, again, a big negative.

But SDA’s don’t make a religious issue out of many prescription drugs prescribed by SDA Doctors at SDA Hospitals, whose efficacy on the target and side effects on other concerns might well mirror my numbers of -20% and + 200%, yet we make a religious issue out of this one.

A bit strange to say the least…