Thursday, May 28, 2009

Is It Healthy to Drink Wine?

My son Vaughn and I enjoying a special bottle of wine for my birthday (we are NOT drinking the entire bottle!)

Day 28 of Our “One Month Raw Food Cleanse”
During my one month raw food cleanse, I have enjoyed some wine. Wine is raw, although not all wine is vegan—we’ll talk about that later. In moderation, wine has some significant health benefits. The key word is moderation which may mean different things to different people. A person who polishes off a bottle of wine with dinner each night after he’s had a few cocktails before dinner would have a different definition than someone who drinks only on occasion. As they say, the definition of an alcoholic is someone who drinks more than you do. The definition of “moderate drinking” would also depend on your sex, age, body weight and underlying physical condition. So it’s tough to say a woman should have one glass of wine a night and a man two. That should certainly be the upper limit but for some, that may still seem like too much. So you should listen to your body and use judgment – something that gets more difficult to do after you start drinking wine. After a wonderful glass of wine, it’s pretty tough to say, “Oh, one is my limit to achieve optimum health benefits”. It would be more like, “hey, that’s pretty good. I’ll have another and pass over that big block of cheese”.

So yes, if you have will power, and alcohol doesn’t completely cloud your judgment, a “moderate” amount of wine can potentially have significant health benefits.

Health Benefits of Moderate Wine Consumption
Delay dementia. David Teplow, a neurologist from UCLA, found that polyphenols in red wine can block the formation of the amyloid-beta proteins that are the plaques that form in the brain contributing to Alzheimer’s. Studies have also shown that wine may actually improve memory function by causing the release of acetylcholine. Too much alcohol can have the opposite effect.

Good for the heart and could prevent strokes. The flavonoids in wine have antioxidant qualities and can prevent the formation of plaque in the arteries and blood clots. Resveratrol, found in the skin and seeds of the grapes used to make red wine, can increase HDL (the good cholesterol), reduce LDL (the bad cholesterol) and prevent blood clotting. Preventing the formation of plaque in arteries and blood clots would also prevent a person from having a stroke.

Protects against throat cancer. A Kaiser Permanente study (see March issue of Gastroenterology) showed that moderate wine consumption could offer protection from the onset of Barrett’s Esophagus which leads to esophageal cancer. Although drinking beer had no effect and drinking spirits could actually raise the risk, drinking one or two glasses of wine a day lowered the chance of developing Barrett’s Esophagus by 56 percent.

Prevents type 2 diabetes. According to a study by the Harvard School of Public Health, women over 25 who had one or two glasses of wine daily were 58% less likely of developing diabetes than those who did not drink. Red wine may help regulate blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity.

May induce overwhelming joy. There are other benefits that you don’t normally see in medical journals. Like the absolute joy of sharing your favorite bottle of wine with a close family member or a good friend. Or the excitement of opening that special bottle of champagne you’ve been saving for your anniversary. And the joyous ritual of a sommelier opening a fine wine to go with a special meal. No one will dispute that joy improves health and extends life.

There are also some risks associated with wine consumption which you should be aware of.

Risks of wine consumption:
Increases the risk of breast cancer. The National Cancer Institute found that women who consume one to three drinks a day have a 24 percent increased risk of getting breast cancer.

Increase in triglycerides. Wine consumption can elevate triglyceride levels which can lead to health problems like diabetes.

Can cause fetal alcohol syndrome. Pregnant women should avoid alcohol as it has been associated with developmental disorders in their babies.

Conclusion: So should I drink wine?
If you can drink in moderation (that’s usually defined as 5 ounces of wine per day for a woman and twice that for a man) you can reap the benefits and joy of drinking wine while minimizing the risks. But if you don’t drink wine or you don’t particularly enjoy it, don’t start. You can still get many of the benefits listed above through proper nutrition and excercise.

Full disclosure:
In the spirit of full disclosure, one: My family is Italian so a little wine was mixed with water and put in my bottle when I was a child and two: my husband and I live in Sonoma county (some of California’s most beautiful wine country) and are about to plant 3,000 vines of Pinot Noir which will make us wine growers.

Is wine vegan?
Although wine is raw, it is not always vegan. Some winemakers use animal products to clear the wine which prevents it from turning cloudy. The most commonly used agents to accomplish this are casein (milk protein), gelatin (from bones), egg whites, egg albumin, and isinglass (from fish). Vegan wine makers use bentonite clay, carbon, diatomaceous earth and kaolin (a clay mineral). For a vegan wine guide, go to .

Menu for Day 28
Breakfast is a big fruit salad with fresh strawberries, cantaloupe, mango and dessert helper. I’m meeting friends for lunch so I’m not sure what I’ll find. Dinner will be raw pizza (see May 18, 2009 posting) since I just pulled a big batch of sprouted lentil crusts out of the dehydrator. Dessert is chia pudding (see April 11, 2009 posting).

1 comment:

enzo said...

I heard Pinot Noir is the healthiest variety of wine. It would be a dream of mine to one day tend to my own vineyard. I heard that gardening is also a great way to improve your health. Excellent blog by the way.