Is red wine good for you?

Paracelcus ((1493-1541),, ‘Wine is a food, a medicine, and a poison – it’s just a question of dose’.
So what is the truth?  There has been alarming news recently about the increase in liver disease, particularly among young people, so how can drinking ever be beneficial to your health?  Red wine can protect the heart, but too much alcohol of any kind leads to hypertension, high blood pressure and consequently strokes and heart disease.

The French paradox
But  what used to confuse health experts was that the French who eat all that cheese, loaded with cholesterol and saturated fat, should have lower incidences of heart disease than the rest of Europe. According to Professor Roger Corder, who has spent much of his career researching cardiovascular health and wine, red wine is the only alcoholic drink that actually has health benefits.

The health warning

The warning is that red wine has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, provided it is drunk (a) in moderation and (b) in conjunction with a healthy diet and (c) a healthy lifestyle – i.e. no smoking.   See Alcohol – do we drink too much?

High quantities of red wine like any other alcohol raise blood pressure, and he claims that beer and spirits are not protective. The health warning is:  drinking 20g (2.5 units) a day of red wine could have benefits in terms of reducing heart disease risk, whereas drinking 80g (8 units)  a day is likely to cause coronary disease.

Red wine and dark chocolate

He explains it is the polyphenols (an antioxidant compound found in red wine) that provide the protection, and not the reservratrol as so widely reported by some newspapers and advertisers. And it doesn’t have to be red wine, because the same effect can be gained from the polyphenols in cranberry juice, cocoa, cinnamon, apples and (this is the best news) dark chocolate.

Liver disease

None of this conflicts with the depressing news that cases of liver disease have doubled in the last 10 years in the UK, as opposed to other European countries where governments don’t allow cheap booze. Increasing numbers of young people, including women, have liver damage, and much of this is due to binge-drinking.

The French and Italians, Professor Corder explains, do their drinking in a different way. They may have a couple of glasses of wine with a meal while eating, and later on a couple more glasses with dinner. It is true that food helps to soak up alcohol, and one of the problems with young Brits’ drinking is that they go out for the evening often on an empty stomach, with the view of eating a meal later on, which means they get more drunk and do more damage to themselves.