Discussion Of Whether Wine Is A Healthy Drink

Wine has always been attributed as a healthy drink paired nicely with pasta or steak. But a new study is surfacing that has allegedly found that drinking wine is apparently equivalent to smoking five to 10 cigarettes a week.

What’s the proof?

According to health website WebMD, the research, conducted by the United Kingdom study, found that drinking approximately a bottle of wine each week could also be bad for one’s body. According to the study, the effects of drinking a bottle of wine a week can increase the risk of women getting breast cancer, as it is equivalent to 10 cigarettes a week. For men, drinking a bottle of wine a week increases their risk of various cancers that can usually be developed by smoking five cigarettes a week.

The people who made the study, lead by Theresa Hydes, PhD, and a hepatology clinical fellow at the University Hospital Southampton, England, said that for all the equal amounts of debunking and praise that the research is getting, she maintains that the research is still based on “data from previous large studies.” She also added that the cross-referencing of alcohol and cigarettes is merely just a strategy to “raise public awareness of the cancer risk of alcohol.”

The confusion

But the naysayers are shouting defiance to this study, calling out the research for erasing all the health benefits of wine because of actually, really complicated reasons.

The gist is this: the first known look into what wine does to the body was observed in the French. According to Time, this was once called the “French paradox”. Back then, researchers were stopped in their tracks when they found that though the French love consuming saturated fat, a quick peek into their hearts revealed that they were actually less at risk of developing heart diseases.

This was back in the '90s, though, although almost a decade later, the same question was posited, “is wine really good for you?”, and a 2017 review in the journal called Circulation found that “the bulk of evidence suggests that low-to-moderate red wine consumption is good for the heart.”

So, is it really bad for you? Unfortunately, in this case, it depends on where you look.

To help unpack this, Time first elucidated that light or moderate drinking, usually red wine and usually with food, actually helps people extend their life spans. In the early 2000s, Mediterranean-style eating was touted to longer lifespans, since most of them also drank red wine. Consequently, even in Italy, the results were much the same, as it was observed that middle-aged Italian men who would drink five glasses of red wine were also capable of living normal and long lives.

To understand why this is happening, we need to first remind ourselves that people get cancer for a plethora of reasons, just as people can get sick without realizing it sometimes. Part of what contributes to illnesses in wine or alcohol drinkers is the food.

So many bodily systems are affected by the stuff we eat, and in the case of whether or not alcohol really contributes to longevity, looking at the food which we eat with wine is crucial. For instance, it’s true that alcohol usually helps our bodies produce healthy cholesterol, or help with the body’s clotting mechanisms, and blood platelet production, but all that still needs to be complemented by a healthy diet.

So, why red wine? According to a 2006 study published in the BMJ, it could be because the attitudes of red wine drinkers vary widely with beer drinkers, both general types of alcohol. The study found that “wine drinkers eat more healthfully than most, that could explain away some of the longevity benefits linked to vino.”

To drink or not to drink? 

Wine Spectator, a website with content centering on wine consumption and wine itself, argues in much the same vein, saying that the fact that the first study would even unequivocally equate drinking alcohol to finishing off ten cigarettes a week is very misleading. For one thing, the many studies done to back up the health benefits of wine are overlooked even though the real culprit of cancer is usually not recognized in most cases.

Still, the research led by Hydes argues that drinking alcohol even in low levels has absolutely no good effects. However, writer Mitch Frank is already calling the researchers’ bluff when they said the following statement: 'Our estimation of a cigarette equivalent for alcohol provides a useful measure for communicating possible cancer risks that exploits successful historical messaging on smoking.' Frank called them out for piggybacking on years of scientifically-proven bad effects of smoking and using alcohol consumption to push for that message. This, as Frank points out, is a marketing study and nothing more.

Additionally, it’s also a pretty short-sighted way to view the effects of alcohol, because they do have benefits. Various studies have found that most wines are rich with polyphenols and resveratrol, a compound in grapes which helps with fighting off “inflammation” and improving blood health. Although there is much to be said about the other chemicals in wine, erasing its contributions with a marketing study, no less, demeans their purpose as a healthy drink in moderation.

09 March 2021
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