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Dr Russ Blog - Is wine really good for you?
Is wine really good for you?
Created on 7/14/2009

P asks about wine - is it healthy or not? The health benefits of drinking wine in moderation have been widely touted, and there's some truth behind the statements, but there's also reason for caution.

Moderate wine intake appears to raise "good cholesterol" (HDL, or HDL-C) levels and may "thin" the blood slightly, thus potentially protecting against heart disease and perhaps stroke. There are even some data suggesting a protective effect of moderate wine consumption against Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia. 

Much of the data on wine's health benefits has focused on red wine, but some research suggests there may be health benefits associated with drinking white wine, too. Red wine, however, contains a compound called resveratrol. This antioxidant has been under intense study of late due to early findings suggestive of a beneficial health impact on weight gain and aging.

In addition, many cultures put a premium on enjoying a glass of wine with loved ones for religious or spiritual reasons.

So it would appear that moderate wine consumption can be good for us, right? Maybe... Part of the issue, however, comes with defining "moderate."

We all know people who are dependent, if not addicted, to alcohol, and many more who "need" a glass of wine (or two) each night to relax. In terms of potential health benefits, this is not how best to define moderation.

No health practitioner wants to promote over-indulgence with alcohol. Besides concerns about alcoholism / dependency and driving / operating heavy machinery while under the influence of alcohol, there are other risks associated with regular alcohol intake, even wine, that include high blood pressure, raised triglyceride levels (which can increase the risk for cardiovascular disease), stomach and liver disorders.

In addition, and this is very important, there is a well-researched association between the intake of alcohol and the risk for breast cancer. The data regarding alcohol intake and risk for prostate cancer are less well-defined.

The potential health benefits of drinking a glass of wine from time to time appear to be real, but they are mild and not so convincing that doctors should tell people who don't drink alcohol to pick up the habit.

If you enjoy a good glass of wine keep in mind that the guidelines for healthy limits for men and women are likely different - men may be able to safely enjoy a small glass of wine each night, while women should probably err on the side of "less is more," or no more than one glass every other evening (no binging - you shouldn't have your 3 glasses per week all on Saturday night!). 

Researchers are still working to clarify the health benefits and risks of moderate wine drinking. Until we know more, it's best to consider wine a treat for occasional enjoyment that may, beyond perceived social benefits, have mild physical benefits, too. Wine drinking, however, is not necessary to optimize health (dark berries, for example, can provide some of the same health benefits without the risks).

I hope this helps, P. Be well.
Dr. Russ
** Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. **

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