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Wine is good for you. Don’t heed the naysayers

13 comments

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the never-ending debate about whether drinking a little wine is good or bad for you.

If the average American consumer is totally confused by now, I don’t blame her. Wine causes cancer. Wine prevents cancer. Wine lowers the risk of strokes. No, it doesn’t. Wine prevents heart attacks…or maybe it doesn’t.

My own opinion is that humankind has been drinking wine for thousands of years, and when a dietary and behavioral habit like that is so engrained, it must have positive value, from an evolutionary point of view. Species do not develop traits that tend to cause their demise. Quite the opposite. Evolution made food tasty to us so that we would eat and thrive. Evolution made sex delightful to us so that we would reproduce. (I’m not saying reproduction is the only reason to have sex, but you get the point.) And evolution made wine taste good because wine is good for us. End of story.

Yet there are always those neoprohibitionists who work overtime to get the rest of us to stop drinking wine. Case in point: a lady, Pat Ferguson. She wrote the other day “that the word is out (and I’ve been saying this for a long, long time) that wine ain’t so fine for your health after all…” and that “those who purported its benefits for so long were owners of vineyards.” !!!!

Easy target here. I’ve covered a lot of news over the years about scientific research on wine and health, and I can’t recall a single instance in which the studies were conducted by owners of vineyards. Or winemakers. Or cellar rats. So that’s a silly statement. More to the point is Ferguson’s citation of a study that (quoting Ferguson) points to moderate wine drinking “as causing an increase in breast cancer risk by as much as 15% in women.” The study was by a medical professor at Brigham Women’s Hospital, Wendy Chen.

You know that’s going to cause millions of women to worry about drinking. I did a little research into this study and found that it’s far less conclusive than Ferguson would have you believe. For one, even if it’s true, the study stressed that the slight risk of higher cancer “is more than offset” by the positive benefits to the heart, according to this article.

Furthermore, “the study authors said no evidence exists to show that giving up drinking will lower a woman’s risk of breast cancer.” Another article, in the Nov. 1 Washington Post, covered Chen’s study, but also reported a new study on resveratrol’s possible prevention of diabetes and obesity, which would “extend [people’s] lives” and explain the French paradox whereby some people eat vast quantities of fats and cholesterol (paté, cheese, butter, eggs) and have low rates of heart attacks and strokes.

We live in an information-saturated society. Every day, scientists around the world are conducting studies at universities and research institutes, and if you pay attention to the news, you’re going to hear totally contradictory information about everything, sometimes in the same news span. Instead of knee-jerk reactions to studies such as Ferguson’s, wise consumers ought to take the wide view, taking into account everything they know about wine drinking (including–and maybe especially–its soothing psychological effects) and then coming to their own conclusions. Anyhow, Ferguson’s reporting itself seems to have a personal agenda. “Having been a wine consumer at one time in my life,” she explains, she now abstains, implying that the alcoholism her father suffered from is the reason why. I, personally find the advice of recovering addicts to be notoriously unreliable.

  1. You know, one of the great things about drinking wine is that the more you do, the less you worry.

    In fact, by the end of the evening, you really don’t care at all about those disputed side-effects…

  2. Carlos Toledo says:

    One more huge siren showing the fast american decline is everywhere, not only in the economy.

    In addition to becoming more and more poor, americans are going against a drink that is absolutely correlated to the basic notion of civilization. I hardly believe someone went as far as saying this about wine….

    This lady ought to know it’s not just the beverage that brings one health, but the whole context. Everything surrounding it is healthy… and by that i mean:

    1. proper time to enjoy the moment and the meal (hence a better digestion)

    2. a joyful moment with that meal and wine (do i have to add anything more here?)

    3. the average wine drinker (he) eats less, works out more, is more interested in nature than in consumerism that makes up for some life problem.

    4. a decent wine lover doesn’t binge. he knows how much he has to drink in order to appreciate a good wine.

    5. drinking wine improves sexual life. sex picks more parts of the brain more than any other activity amongst other benefits. check your face and skin the day after, it looks better, doesn’t it? if you disagree you’re going out with the wrong kind of people.

    poor people.

  3. Poor people are the wrong kind of people Carlos?

  4. A couple more points that come to mind about Chen’s study.

    1)The study was not about wine, but about alcohol consumption irrespective of beverage.

    2)Those who drank moderately also used tobacco more than non-drinkers, but tobacco was assumed not to be a factor because the author asserts that other studies have not shown a connection between tobacco and breast cancer. (It seems odd logic to me to find two things associated with a higher risk, but assume that it is only the one the study was designed to investigate.)

    3)There are other factors that can be associated with alcohol consumption besides tobacco that might increase cancer risk. Stress and weight being two obvious ones.

    4} This study was self reporting. Individuals are notorious for underestimating their alcohol consumption.

  5. Carlos Toledo says:

    Bruce Wayne:

    Replace poor people by “i pity the fool”. How’s that? I didn’t mean poor as in one who lacks $$.

    I’m poor myself.

  6. I believe Robert Mondavi uttered these works:

    Wine is an essential part of a life well lived.

    words to live by

  7. As usual, all things in moderation. But more importantly, Dr. Christy Russell, who heads up the Breast Cancer Center at University of Southern California- Keck School of Medicine says, “if you have a glass of wine, make sure you get plenty of folates. That means (oh, god I sound like my mother) eat lots of green leafy vegetables and fruit.

  8. In Ferguson’s blog, she also says wine is bad for you because it is high in sugar. I wonder what type of wine she was drinking?

  9. Carlos, yeah I thought you might have meant that. It just sounded funny the way you phrased it.

  10. Carlos Toledo says:

    Wayne, it sounded funny what i said because a great part of my brain thinks in brazilian portuguese (both languages can be very different from one another. I prefer talking to spanish people than to portuguese). We in Brazil tend to infer things assuming that people understand our light hints (we suppress pronouns a lot to give you a better example).

    Anyway, i’m still negatively impressed by the bad attempt correlation between wine and health. Some people should take a hike as far as europe and check how “ill” some countries may live consuming 50 liters of wine per capita year. They live just up to 90 something years old in those communities. Once again wine is part of a context we wrote early on today.

    Bye now.

  11. Tom Maresca, a not so well known author, in his not so well known 1990 book “The Right Wine” took aim at that time’s negative health claims on wines. He said he was staying with his own multi-generational experience that wine and other alooholic beveages in moderation were beneficial to the mind and body.

  12. Steve, is “Evolution” an entity that made wine and sex for us humans? Would an entity that makes things be called, say, a Creator? Stirring the pot a little.

  13. Studies on the risk of breast cancer in women are conflicting and inconsistent. The last word about breast cancer risk in women has yet to be written. That said, the general consensus among the medical profession is that there is a 6% to 10% increase in risk for each drink per day a woman consumes. 12.7% of women will be diagnosed with breast cancer some time in their life – assuming a 6% increased risk in light drinkers, the risk is increased to 13.5%.

    The very small risk in women seems TRIVIAL when one considers that heart disease causes 10 times as many deaths in women as breast cancer and heart disease deaths exceed breast cancer deaths in every decade of a woman’s life. Plus, a diagnosis of breast cancer carries more than 90% cure rate.

    Light drinking in women lowers the risk of the more common causes of death among women such as heart disease, stroke, hip fracture and dementia.

    Curtis Ellison, MD, a world-renown researcher in this area has stated that for women who do not binge drink, have adequate intake of folate and are not on hormone-replacement therapy, the risk of breast cancer appears to increase only for female consumers of more than one and a half drinks per day.

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