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Wine and Health - How much wine is good for you?

Wine Interests

There was a time in my youth when nearly every wine list used to have a motto inscribed underneath it: 'he who drinks beer lives to be a hundred, but he who drinks wine lives forever'. Obviously this is a maxim more likely to be believed in the wine producing countries of the south than it is in the beer brewing countries of the north.

There was a time in my youth when nearly every wine list used to have a motto inscribed underneath it: 'he who drinks beer lives to be a hundred, but he who drinks wine lives forever'. Obviously this is a maxim more likely to be believed in the wine producing countries of the south than it is in the beer brewing countries of the north. Two thousand years ago the Roman Empire used the vine as a determinant of culture: wine drinkers were civilised, beer drinkers were barbarians. Today we're inclined to make differing claims, but the most frequently encountered is that wine is good for your health.

Now let's try to pin down what exactly that means. There's a wealth of data that suggests that moderate consumption of alcohol helps to prevent coronary heart disease. If you plot a graph with mortality on the vertical scale and alcohol consumption on the horizontal scale you get what's known as a 'J' curve. It's called that because it looks like a 'J'. If the left-hand tip of the riser of the 'J' is the base-line of mortality, then you get a dip before it rises steeply again. That dip is the graphical representation of the 'health' benefit. Somewhere between the equivalent of two to three glasses of wine a day is the optimum benefit. More than this reduces your risk of heart disease still further, but you have to balance that against an increased risk of liver damage, alcohol related cancers and an increased possibility of fatal accidents.

Which is where you get the figure of 15-20 units of alcohol a week. That amount reduces the risk of heart disease without bringing into effect the results of alcohol abuse. As yet there appears to be no definitive data as to how this amount of alcohol is best consumed. Common sense would suggest that a couple of glasses of wine a day is preferable to bingeing two bottles on a Saturday night, but there's no hard evidence of this as yet, mainly because people tend to lie about their alcohol intake. That becomes clear when you extrapolate how much people say they drink and then compare it to how much alcohol is actually sold. The difference can be as much as two fold.

However it remains indisputable that the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to stop smoking, take regular exercise and eat a balanced diet. If you drink wine in moderation as well, perhaps you will live forever.

Recommended wine

Inycon Fiano 2002

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