How Much Wine Should I Drink?by Alexander on August 9th, 2013
The Truth about Wine:
I like wine a lot. It is by far the best drink to accompany food. There is no other drink that commands so much respect. Unfortunately it is also fair to say that there is no other drink that is surrounded with so much bullshit. I am no “wine expert” but I do know how to review the scientific literature. So at great personal risk to my business I thought I would do a few quick and hopefully helpful blogs about what is true, and what are the common fallacies about wine, why they have come about and perhaps a little on how you can handle the situation when one of these fallacies’ raises their head and keeps coming back to life like a hideous zombie.
Part 1: Health & Wine
A staple of any conversation about wine is this statement: “A glass of wine a day is good for your health.”
Below is a Ven diagram of why that is such a good “fact”.
The best statements, the ones I spent my working life looking for in TV are simple and have these three magic qualities that rarely overlap:
2. They are true, they are confirmed by some authority and you can rely on these statements.
And the hardest to find:
3. They are counter intuitive (=surprising), they confound your expectations.
If I had just broken the news that “A glass of wine a day is good for you” then boom. This blog would go viral. Anyone with a vested interest would be climbing to the top of church spires and screaming it at the top of their lungs whilst they re-tweet like mad from their smart phones.
Sadly for all of us this is not true (sad face). Or at least the evidence to support it is woefully inadequate. So how has the world’s most repeated health fallacy come about?
The healthiest people in the world are the guys that drink one small glass of wine a day. These are not normal people. Most people are by their nature hedonistic. We like to do things that make us feel good. We are built to seek out experiences that make us feel good. We wish to find the things that make our senses tingle. When we find things that feel good we keep doing them.
A person who metronomically drinks one small glass of wine a day for years on end is an aberration. They do exist, but they only exist because there are literally billions of humans on the planet. They are not figures which we mortals should look to emulate.
Now who are the guys that don’t drink any alcohol? T-totals, dry alcoholics and people confined to hospitals. Why might the five year survival rate be higher for the group that have some innate, incredible ability to drink one small glass of wine a day despite all the social pressures heaped on them, than the “non-drinkers” which are two thirds comprised of the hospitalised and former heavy drinkers? Well when I think back about my friends, the guys who could say, “no thanks, I am just having one drink” and meant it, didn’t tend to be the same guys lighting Sambuca shots, and then sticking them to themselves with the vacuums caused by extinguishing the flames on their bare chests.
Someone who only has one small glass of wine is probably very adept at avoiding all kinds of long term harms, in every aspect of their life. If you can find a large study that splits out all the different kinds of non-drinkers, then I would genuinely be interested to read that work. If I see it, I will be delighted. I will be fascinated and I will gladly correct this blog. But for now let us accept that this statement is not true. It seems true only because it is a mantra that has been repeated over and over again.
But hang on; I am sure I have been told that wine is good for your heart? It thins the blood. Well yes it does, and again at moderate levels (less than two glasses a day) you should have a lower risk of coronary heart disease. But alcohol will bump up several other risk factors. So the correct amount to drink to maximise your health benefits is one or two teaspoons a day. It is literally a medical does of wine. That is hilarious and no fun at all.
So let’s just do ourselves a favour. Forget all food health statements. Unless they are unequivocal and obvious, they are probably laughable. If you insist on looking at the health benefits of food stuffs then please use this site as a touch stone: http://bit.ly/dmmhdR.
For the rest of us let’s just accept that wine tastes amazing. It relaxes you, it makes you more comfortable in the present, it reduces your stress levels and your inhibitions. It makes it easier to speak to those around you. It frees you up and makes you a more animated and interesting person to be with. In the short term, even at reasonable doses wine, tends to make you a better person, or at least a more open and fun one. You work hard and for the most part you aren’t reckless with your health so you are entitled to a drink. There are enough good reasons to have a glass of wine without resorting to, at best, shaky health claims.