If you enjoy a glass or two of wine after a busy day, you might experience some unexpected health benefits. But too much alcohol consumption has the opposite effect.
Pairing those two glasses of wine a day with a Mediterranean diet that emphasizes fruits, vegetables and whole grains with healthy servings of fish and dairy, and limited amounts of meats and sweets, is so much the better. While certain groups of people should avoid wine completely, for most it can be part of a healthy lifestyle.
Effects of Alcohol
Even a small amount of alcohol will have some impact on the body. The amount of alcohol in the human system is measured by the blood alcohol content, or BAC, percentage. The lower your weight, the higher the BAC will be from even a small amount of alcohol.
Two glasses of wine, each no more than 4 or 5 ounces, may make you more relaxed and talkative but also slightly less coordinated and less able to concentrate. How quickly alcohol is consumed also influences BAC, so it's better to sip slowly during the course of a meal or while relaxing during the evening.
Wine and Heart Health
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), drinking wine doesn't automatically improve heart health. Instead, research has established a relationship between wine consumption and reduced risk of dying from heart disease. It's not just wine that has this benefit — drinking beer or spirits in moderation showed the same risk reduction as wine.
However, the AHA also warns that too much alcohol can lead to other health issues such as liver damage, stroke and obesity. It can also cause high blood pressure and increase risk of heart arrhythmias.
Disease Prevention or Cause?
According to an August 2016 article published by Nutrients, chemical components in wine called polyphenols, including resveratrol and quercetin, are natural substances that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties — which have been shown to help prevent and treat cancer.
However, according to the National Cancer Institute, alcohol consumption of as little as one drink per day has been shown to increase risk of developing some types of cancer, including head and neck, esophageal, liver, breast and colorectal.
Drinking moderate amounts of wine also may help prevent peptic ulcers, gallstones, diabetes, strokes, dementia, Huntington's disease and Parkinson's disease. More research is needed to define the links between wine consumption and lowered rates of various diseases and to see if other sources for the same chemicals exist.
Avoiding Wine Completely
Exercise caution with any alcohol consumption. Doctors advise against beginning to drink if you don't already do so. Alcohol carries with it the risk of overindulgence, with many negative effects. According to the AHA, moderate consumption is defined as one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Do not drink if you are planning to operate a motor vehicle. Alcoholics, pregnant women, adolescents and those suffering from certain medical conditions, including peptic ulcers, liver or kidney disease, depression, and epilepsy, should avoid alcohol completely.
Do not drink if you are taking certain over-the-counter or prescription medications, and avoid alcohol if you are a pre-menopausal woman with a family history of breast cancer. If you have any doubts about whether it's safe for you to consume wine, ask a physician.
- American Heart Association: "Drinking Red Wine For Heart Health? Read This Before You Toast"
- National Cancer Institute: "Alcohol and Cancer Risk"
- Nutrients: "Natural Polyphenols for Prevention and Treatment of Cancer"
- University of Oklahoma; Police Notebook; Blood Alcohol Content Calculator
- National Cancer Institute; Red Wine and Cancer: Fact Sheet; November 2002
- American Association for Cancer Research; Drinking Wine May Increase Survival . . .; April 2009