Health myth: Is drinking red wine really good for health?

Even if millions of people die every year due to good wine and gluttony, the history of human drinking has been thousands of years. In the past few decades, wine in particular has won the reputation of benefiting our health. Red wine is even believed to help us live longer and reduce the risk of heart disease.

But is wine drinking really good for us?

Of course, the first thing to ask is what is meant by “good for us”. When we think of the potential benefits of wine, many people think of heart health.

But what few people know is that research has found a great relationship between drinking and cancer. For a non-smoker, drinking a bottle of wine a week will definitely increase their lifetime risk of cancer, increasing by 1% for men and 1.4% for women. Drinking a bottle of alcohol a week is equivalent to smoking 5 cigarettes for a man or 10 cigarettes for a woman.

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Mark Bellis, Director of Policy Research and International Development at Public Health Wales, said: “Although there has been a lot of publicity about the relationship between smoking and cancer, there has been very little publicity. Propaganda talks about the disadvantages of drinking, because public information about tobacco is controlled by public health officials, while information about alcohol is mainly controlled by the alcohol industry itself.”

Studies have found that the view that a small amount of alcohol is good for health can be traced back to the 1970s, when scientists discovered that although French people consume more saturated fat, the incidence of heart disease is lower than people in other countries. Therefore, there is a clear relationship between the lower incidence of heart disease and wine consumption. This is the so-called “French Paradox”, a mystery that has not yet been solved by scientists.

In the 1970s, scientists discovered that the incidence of heart disease in France was lower than in other countries, so they thought it might be related to the French love to drink wine (Credit: Getty Images)

We have believed it since then, believing that drinking too much alcohol can reduce our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and overweight.

Helena Conibear, co-director of the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research, said: “Early studies have found that moderate drinking of wine can produce a’J’-shaped curve effect (referring to the initial presentation of the body health index). The low-level effect, and then a straight rise to maintain a high level, during which the data change curve is the same as the phenomenon of the English letter J). A small amount of regular drinking seems to prolong life, improve health, and reduce cognitive deterioration. Since then, there have been more than 1,000 articles. The paper was published, reiterating the same view.”

As a result, for a long period of time, the social consensus believed that drinking alcohol in moderation is more beneficial to health than not drinking. The so-called moderate amount refers to drinking one or two glasses of wine a day.

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However, this theory of the “J”-shaped relationship between drinking and death and disease was subsequently criticized. It is now generally believed that a lot of data may be problematic. People who do not drink alcohol may quit drinking because of poor health, not because their health deteriorates after quitting. (This phenomenon of inverting effects is a problem encountered in many observational studies. It can be said that most nutrition studies are the same.)

In 2006, a study that controlled for the outcome variable analyzed 54 previously published research reports and found that there was no correlation between moderate alcohol consumption and a lower risk of heart disease.

Studies have found that a small amount of alcohol has a lower risk of heart disease, but studies have also found that this is not the case

And Conibel also said that in the following years, studies have even reached the opposite result. She said: “In the past five years, researchers have been studying a variety of variables between the two. We know that wine-drinking people tend to be richer, more educated, and less likely to sit and exercise. According to this model, it is undeniable that there is a J-shaped curve.”

She said that in order to overcome this biased study, the researchers used the participants in the trial who had never drunk, instead of the participants who had drunk alcohol in the past but ended up quitting for health reasons.

In a 2019 study, researchers used a different method to determine whether small amounts of alcohol are actually associated with lowering the risk of heart disease. They conducted a 10-year follow-up survey of more than 500,000 adults in China and found that two genetic variants (ALDH2-rs671 and ADH1B-rs1229984) affect drinking patterns rather than poor health. They also excluded people with poor health.

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Chen Zhengming, one of the authors of the research report and professor of epidemiology at the University of Oxford’s Nuffield Department of Population Health, said: “People without genetic defects can drink as much as they want, but those People with enzyme dysfunction can’t tolerate alcohol at all.”

Chen said that the researchers also used Chinese women as a control group, because although many Chinese women can metabolize alcohol, many women do not drink for social reasons, but drink two glasses for health.

A 10-year study found that the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk of high blood pressure and stroke, but there is no correlation with heart disease (Credit: Getty Images)

This time, the researchers did not find the correlation of the “J” shape. On the contrary, they found that the more people who drink, the higher the risk of hypertension and stroke, and one or two alcohol units per day (an alcohol unit is a small glass of wine, or a bottle of beer or a small portion). The risk of hypertension and stroke did not decrease for people with spirits). However, neither of them has any relationship with heart disease.

Therefore, although there is a clear link between drinking and stroke, perhaps certain substances in alcohol may protect us from heart attacks.

Professor Chen Zhengming said: “Our research shows that alcohol does have a protective mechanism, because heavy drinking will continue to increase blood pressure, but for heart disease, there is no change in the risk of increased or decreased risk due to drinking.”

In general, drinking alcohol may reduce the risk of heart disease caused by high blood pressure, but whether it is enough to reduce the increase in blood pressure, it is impossible to conclude (Credit: Getty Images)

He said: “So even if the blood pressure rises, there may be another mechanism to counteract the increase in blood pressure. But we don’t know whether this protective mechanism is sufficient to counteract high blood pressure.”

It is worth noting that the researchers converted all alcoholic beverages into standard alcohol units, so the results do not specifically refer to wine. However, Professor Chen believes that the results of wine research are not particularly different.

Red wine
However, because wine contains an antioxidant called polyphenols, it is often regarded as a “health preservation” wine. Polyphenols are also present in fruits and vegetables, which can reduce inflammation in the human body, and inflammation is a factor that causes diseases. The polyphenol content of red wine is ten times that of white wine.

Alberto Bertelli, a health researcher in Biomedical Sciences for Health at the University of Milan, Italy, found that drinking small amounts of wine can prevent heart disease, partly because wine has anti-inflammatory properties. He recommends drinking no more than 160 milliliters of wine (the size of a champagne flute) every day, and only drink it during meals. This is a Mediterranean style of drinking.

Research has focused on resveratrol, a natural compound found in grape skins and seeds. Resveratrol is believed to dilate blood vessels and thus help prevent high blood pressure.

Most research on the relationship between wine and health has focused on resveratrol, an antioxidant found in grapes.

There is no resveratrol in white wine, but there is in white grapes. But Betteli observed that the so-called “French Paradox” also applies to French white wine drinking. In other words, if wine is good for health, then white wine may also be good.

Betteli said: “We found two compounds in white wine that are the same as extra virgin olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is recognized as a healthy food. These two compounds are found in white wine and extra virgin olive oil. The content is about the same.” The two compounds Betteli said, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol, were found to prevent Alzheimer’s.

However, most researchers have found that the vast majority of wine ingredients that are considered beneficial to health are only in red wine.

Red wine may be good for intestinal health. Intestinal health has many benefits for other parts of our body, such as improving immunity and digestion, and having a healthy weight. In a recent study, researchers studied the drinking habits of twins and found that drinking red wine can improve the diversity of intestinal bacteria related to health. However, the study found that it is good for intestinal health to drink only one glass of red wine a week, and those who drink two small glasses of red wine a day are not included in the study.

Studies have found that people who drink a glass of red wine every night have healthier weight and intestines, but it is also possible that people who drink red wine are healthier themselves (Credit: Getty Images)

Researchers also found that wine drinkers have a lower body mass index (BMI), which means they have a healthier weight. This can also explain why people think that drinking red wine in moderation is related to health. This does not mean that drinking red wine makes you healthier. It may be that the person who drinks red wine is healthier.

Bayliss said: “People who drink red wine usually do more exercise. They are generally wealthier and have healthier physiques.”

The above phenomenon also applies to intestinal health problems. Because this study is observational, researchers cannot determine whether drinking a glass of red wine a week makes your intestines healthier, or whether people with a healthier gut happen to drink a glass of red wine a week. In randomized controlled trials, participants are divided into different groups, asked to adopt different eating patterns, and then their health is measured. When it comes to drinking problems, this approach may be unethical.

There have been some randomized controlled trials on the drinking of red wine, but they are not enough to draw any conclusions. A 2016 randomized controlled trial study found that drinking a glass of red wine at dinner every day for 6 months does not affect the blood pressure of diabetic patients.

Another randomized controlled study in 2015 found that for people with diabetes, drinking 150 ml of red wine (the same volume as a champagne glass) can reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease.

Healthy choice
Caroline Le Roy, a researcher at the Department of Twins Research at Kings College London, published a research report on the relationship between red wine drinking and gut health. She said that although red wine may be the healthiest choice among wines, it is actually healthier not to drink at all.

She said: “We know that alcohol is harmful to us. If you must drink, then drink red wine, because this is the only alcoholic beverage found to be good for the body, but I do not encourage people to drink red wine.”

Red wine is found to be the only alcohol that is good for human health, but this does not mean that drinking red wine is a good choice for health

Research has generally attributed resveratrol to the protective mechanism that is beneficial to the body. But although some researchers believe that the ability of resveratrol to be absorbed by the blood is sufficient to produce antioxidant effects, some researchers suspect that resveratrol stays in the blood for insufficient time to produce beneficial effects for us.

Conibel said: “How many doses of resveratrol can you absorb from a glass of wine, and how much its bioavailability, that is, our body’s ability to absorb it, and how good it is for our body, are controversial.”

In recent years, resveratrol supplements have received increasing attention. However, data on the effectiveness of taking resveratrol tablets are conflicting. Betteli pointed out that we need the alcohol content in wine to help absorb resveratrol.

He said: “Resveratrol has the same bioavailability as other polyphenols in fruits, but it doesn’t matter how much you consume, what matters is how much is absorbed by the blood.”

He said: “Before we can absorb the resveratrol in wine, this compound must be dissolved. Wine can help absorption, resveratrol and wine work together, this effect is unique to wine.”

According to the British drinking guidelines, we should not drink more than 14 alcohol units per week. The UK’s drinking guidelines are one of the most stringent drinking guidelines in the world. Although research on the health benefits of wine is still in its infancy, it is generally believed that the healthiest choice is not to drink, and for those who drink, red wine is the healthiest choice.

fruits and vegetables

There are other ways to promote our health more effectively than drinking red wine, such as eating more fruits and vegetables

But Bayliss said that we should not drink red wine for health, because there are many ways to promote our health more effectively. He said. “Of course, people wishfully wish to hear that drinking half a bottle of wine after get off work is at least not harmful to them, and may even be good for them. Of course it is far from the case.”

Want to enhance your health? Eating more fruits and vegetables and exercising more is the best and most effective way, rather than pour yourself a glass of wine.

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