As anyone with a Facebook account can confirm, the notion that ‘a glass of wine is healthy’ has always attracted the 40-something-year-old ‘mom crowd.’ Memes of giant wine glasses are lauded by red-faced commentators, all of whom are eager to supplement their daily bottle of vino with cold, hard facts. ‘I’m a wine enthusiast. The more I drink, the more enthusiastic I become!’ Laughter, glasses clink.
The Mayo Clinic has weighed in on the subject, and it states, surprisingly, that red wine does have certain health benefits. For instance, the Mayo Clinic notes that alcohol is thought to reduce the formation of blood clots, prevent artery damage, and improve the function of the endothelium. A key ingredient is resveratrol, which comes from the skin of the grapes used in wine. Research is limited, however it confirms that there might be a tenuous link between resveratrol and reduced risk of heart disease. However, one would have to drink litres upon litres of wine in order to get the minimum viable amount of resveratrol – at which point you would be facing all sorts of other problems… indeed, alcohol has addictive properties and could lead to obesity, liver failure, bloating, kidney damage, and cancer.
People want alcohol to be ‘healthy’ and justify their consumption, and as such will jump on any of the above suggestions that it may be healthy – confirmation bias at its best. Ultimately, any health benefits provided by alcohol could easily be obtained from other, less risky sources. Doctors advise that resveratrol could also be ingested via peanuts, cranberries, and blueberries, all of which are healthier than alcohol.
The Lancet published the results of a large-scale 2018 investigation into drinking and life expectancy, which concluded that ‘there were no clear risk thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with lower disease risk.’
A second study came to the similar conclusion that ‘the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero.’
In other words, even a little alcohol is too much – even those civilised two glasses of Rioja in the evening has a detrimental impact on health – let alone a tequila-fuelled night on the town. Alcohol is not healthy, and we have not yet found a way to make drinking it healthy. It can only be made ‘less unhealthy’, potentially by identifying the ways in which it damages the body and mitigating those damages at the earliest possible opportunity.