Myth Busting: Red Wine Not Really Healthy
Back in the 1990’s, a new belief became prevalent – that one glass of red wine a day had health benefits. Why? Well, like other dark berry and grape juices, it contains antioxidants, but also a special kind of substance called resveratrol. Antioxidants have anti-inflammatory properties, known to fight certain types of diseases, especially those related to cancer and heart conditions.
I never kept alcohol in my home. But I was a bit of a health nut, interested in staying young and keeping fit. So when I heard this, I thought “What a great idea!” I’ll keep a bottle of red wine around, and drink a glass a day.” So thus began daily drinking.
Well, suffice to say, the daily drinking turned into an odyssey into alcoholism. One glass a day turned into two. Eventually it turned into a bottle or more. It’s kind of ridiculous to think that the meager benefits brought by a highly-addictive substance is worth the possibility of dependency.
When I was working part-time as a cashier at a farmer’s market a couple years ago, an older gentleman came through my line with a bottle of red wine.
“I don’t drink alcohol, but I heard this is really good for you,” he said.
“Well you know, you can get nearly the same benefits from a glass of pomegranate juice,” I replied.
My thought was this: why in the world would someone who didn’t drink alcohol start drinking for health reasons? At least in my case, I was already a drinker, albeit non-problematic. And I can promise you, acquired taste or not, pomegranate juice tastes a whole lot better.
So years later, I wonder how my life would have changed if I hadn’t picked up the wine myself. I didn’t drink everyday. I didn’t have alcohol around, generally speaking. I went out once a week and had a couple of drinks at the bar, with friends.
I’ve contended for a long time that wine was the catalyst for my alcohol problem. Not only was it purportedly healthy, it is glamorized in a way in popular culture that beer and hard liquor just are not. It’s oft considered classy and sophisticated.
But no matter how you dress it up, it’s still alcohol. And in fact, it’s no foo-foo drink. It has twice the alcohol content of most beers. You also have to question anything you can buy in bulk out of a cardboard box.
There’s also the theory that would help reduce stress. Maybe…if I could have stuck to one. But generally speaking, that didn’t happen. Over the years, my stress level greatly increased.
In a 2010 study of nearly 150,000 adults in France discovered it wasn’t actually drinking wine that lowered the risk of heart disease. Actually, moderate drinkers have other characteristics that foster health, such as getting more exercise, exhibiting less depression, engagement in social activities, and generally higher social status overall.
Also, a 2015 analysis found that moderate drinkers have no advantage over alcohol abstainers or light drinkers in terms of death from any cause.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, drinking moderately actually means just one drink per day for women, and two drinks for men. So that one glass of wine a day? That’s moderate drinking. Anything about that is considered heavy drinking.
The bottom line: Yes, red wine has antioxidants and phytonutrients, but so do vegetables and fruit. And yes, a drink may help you unwind and relieve stress (maybe) but so does going for a walk, meditating, or listening to music.
And in addition to the potential health risks posed by drinking more than one glass per day, is also added calories and safety issues, such as drinking and driving.
And as for the fabulous resveratrol, you can take a supplement you if so desire, without fear of addiction.
~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology
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