“I drink wine for my health.”
WellTuned spoke with Sarah Provence, registered dietitian-nutritionist for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee, to find out.
What evidence is there that drinking wine is good for you?
Provence: There are so many studies about drinking wine, which is not surprising since roughly 1 in 3 Americans drinks wine.
Studies have shown that moderate wine consumption is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, as well as a decreased risk of dying from heart disease. Wine contains antioxidants such as resveratrol. And the levels in red wine are higher than the levels in white wine, so that’s typically what you hear about.
Other studies have shown an association between moderate intake of wine and lower mortality risk from all causes — not just heart disease. And then there are the general connections between wine drinking in certain healthier populations, such as people who follow the Mediterranean diet.
What are studies saying now about daily wine consumption?
Provence: Studies about daily wine consumption remind me of studies about coffee. Some show positive effects and some show negative!
For example, I’ve recently read articles that say all of the following:
- Drinking wine with meals may lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes while drinking wine without food won’t.
- Drinking wine may improve gut health while other studies show it may cause gut issues.
- Moderate wine drinking may be linked to decreased cancer risk while others show even moderate consumption increases that risk, and that heavy wine intake definitely does increase that risk.
Often, people choose to believe whichever study aligns with their lifestyle, but it’s good to consider both sides.
What are the negative health effects of drinking wine?
Provence: Most negative effects come from heavy consumption. Heavy wine drinking can create toxins in the body and cause oxidative stress, which is associated with cancer. It can cause weight gain, and we know that obesity is linked with many negative outcomes.
Many of the potential drawbacks of excess wine consumption are related to the heart. In excess, alcohol can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Shortened lifespan
In fact, from 2011-15, the CDC estimated 2.8 million years of potential life was lost to excessive alcohol intake in the U.S. That’s a significant amount! There are also some conditions, such as an irregular heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), where even a single glass of wine can quickly and significantly raise your risk.
In general, the CDC also recommends limiting your alcohol intake to reduce your risk of long-term issues or chronic conditions. In addition to the heart conditions mentioned, those include:
- Liver disease
- Digestive system issues
- Weakened immune system
- Memory loss
- Mental health disorders, and even
- Social issues.
What’s the bottom line when it comes to alcohol consumption?
Provence: My takeaway would be if you don’t drink alcohol, don’t start just for the possible health benefits. If you do drink, do so in moderation.
What does moderation look like?
Typically, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than:
- 1 drink per day for women, and
- 2 drinks per day for men.
However, that doesn’t mean one large wine glass filled to the brim! One standard drink is only 5 ounces of wine. We also need to look out for binge drinking, which is more than 4 drinks for women or 5 for men in one sitting. Looking at both of those facts can help you gauge if you are drinking too much — either at one time or throughout the week.
What can you do to improve heart health instead of drinking wine?
Provence: There are plenty of other actions you can take to improve heart health. If you’re looking for heart-healthy beverages, juices like pomegranate or Concord grape can give you all the heart-health benefits of red wine without the alcohol. But make sure you account for the sugar and calories those juices contain. You can also focus on eating more heart-healthy fats and antioxidant-rich foods, and work on increasing physical activity.
More about alcohol from WellTuned
- Alcohol use and abuse: 5 things to know
- 10 facts to know about alcohol + how to gauge your alcohol use
- What is “gray area” drinking? Exploring the signs of the mild alcohol use disorder
Get more information about specific health terms, topics and conditions to better manage your health on bcbst.com. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee members can access wellness-related discounts on fitness products, gym memberships, healthy eating and more through Blue365®. BCBST members can also find tools and resources to help improve health and well-being by logging into BlueAccess and going to the Managing Your Health tab.