Every week it seems we're told to grab our corkscrews, raise a glass, and make a toast because—cheers!—wine is good for our health!
Now, I certainly enjoy a glass or two of vino (Italian, red, full body, earthy), but the headlines are getting to be a bit ridiculous. A glass of wine is the equivalent of an hour at the gym? Even as someone who loves lifting weights and vinyasa, I only wish lifting my glass strengthened my biceps. And then in May, a meta-analysis published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugsthrew shade on a long-held belief, saying red wine doesn't reduce the risk of heart disease. Are the health benefits of alcohol all just fake news?
For starters, alcohol is technically toxic.
Toxins are something you hear about a lot—usually in the context of removing them from your body through some unproven method—so it's easy to take any mention of them with a grain of salt. But one thing that we actually know is a toxin to the body is alcohol.
When your body breaks down wine, it releases toxins that damage your cells. The more you drink, the more damage is done, especially to your liver. Most of the alcohol we consume is broken down by the liver, making it “especially vulnerable to damage from excessive alcohol,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This alone should be a reminder to be mindful of how often you down an entire bottle of cabernet.
But even moderate wine consumption may not be as “healthy” as we've been told.
For years we've been hearing that drinking wine boosts HDL (the so-called “good” cholesterol), reduces inflammation, makes nitric oxide more bioavailable, and provides other benefits that, combined, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Much of this research has credited resveratrol, a polyphenol found in grape skins. Since red wine is fermented with the grape skins, red wine has more resveratrol than white wine does. But not only do other foods such as grapes, peanuts, and blueberries also contain resveratrol, if this is the secret component to strong hearts—you're not getting much from drinking. “The amount of resveratrol in wine is very small, and you’d have to drink a lot of wine to receive an equivalent dose to what’s been found in animal studies,” Anne McTiernan, M.D., Ph.D., cancer prevention researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, tells SELF.
And those studies linking moderate drinking with reduced mortality due to heart disease? They hardly prove that merlot will make you live longer.