One glass of red wine a day is good for us?

A couple of weeks ago we listened to a speaker tells us of the value good diet has for those with chronic illness. Much of the advice is based around the importance of a good balanced diet containing plenty of whole foods eaten uncooked with plant oils replacing much of the animal fat many of us eat. One feature of one such diet (The Mediterranean Diet) was the drinking of a moderate amount of alcohol in the form of red wine every day, partly because that was the habit of the healthy mediterranean groups studied in the original research and partly because some research on heart disease concluded that red wine taken every contributed to a healthy heart.

Sadly more recent research suggests that the protective effect of red wine is only significantly important for women aged over 65 PDF icon and that otherwise the impact of alcohol on our health is not good, especially if intake exceeds a moderate (14 units a week) amount.

From the Hippocratic Post:

Alcohol has no nutritional benefit. It is a toxin that contains excess calories and contributes to weight gain without any positive outcome for health.  

 

There have been some scientific studies that moderate intake of red wine, which contains polyphenols and antioxidants , may help to reduce oxidative damage in the body, but a landmark report by the Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies, published in 2016, has dismissed the argument that red wine can be healthy.

The recommended line is that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption. If people do drink alcohol, the maximum they should consume is 14 units a week, according to the latest official guidance.

  Alcohol is a toxin that damages the liver and other organs in the body.

 

Even moderate intake of alcohol also leads to weight gain around the middle, which is a risk factor for heart disease. This is because alcohol is taken in excess of usual meals on top of normal calorie intake. Alcohol contains more calories per gram than carbohydrate, protein and is mostly in the form of refined sugar.

Ironically, people who drink a lot of alcohol over time can suffer from malnutrition because they stop eating and get all their calories from the drinks they consume. This leaves them with a deficit of fat and protein and many of the essential minerals and nutrients. Alcohol also damages and destroys B-vitamins, especially thiamine (Vitamin B-1). B vitamins are important for the smooth running of the nervous system and energy metabolism. Heavy drinking on a regular basis increases the risk of health problems including liver cirrhosis, heart disease and certain cancers.

Magnesium deficiency in regular drinkers can lead to confusion, apathy and insomnia and lack of zinc leads to lack of appetite and lethargy.

To minimise these effects, people with moderate to high alcohol intake are advised to replenish nutrient stores by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, salads, legumes, eggs and chicken. Dietary supplements and vitamin and mineral supplements can also be taken to counter the effects of nutrition depletion caused by alcohol consumption.

 

Priya Tew

 
Priya Tew. Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist
British Dietetic Association Media Spokesperson of the Year 2015