Good wine engenders good blood. Or not.

Let’s debunk the saying “Good wine makes good blood”. Several studies show that the ethanol contained in wine, when drunk in considerable and continuous quantities, would lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular and cancer diseases.

“Good wine engenders good blood” is a saying that many of us have often heard, indicating the beneficial effects of wine on heart and blood vessel health. The idea was consolidated with the famous “French paradox”, born in the 90s, in which a lower risk of myocardial ischemia was observed in the French population despite a diet rich in saturated fat. It was hypothesized that the protective action was due to the moderate consumption of red wine and the substances contained within it.

The hypothesized protection mechanisms were:

  • improvement of the ratio of LDL and HDL cholesterol;
  • decrease in platelet aggregation and therefore lower risk of thrombosis;
  • increased cellular sensitivity to insulin;
  • presence of antioxidants, such as resveratrol.

To date, the cardiovascular protective effect of wine is still not very clear and more and more data lead us to think that the French paradox was not linked to the consumption of red wine but to the presence of “confounding” factors such as a high intake of fruit and vegetables, greater attention to lifestyle and an improvement in the French socio-economic condition.

Furthermore, new data show that moderate doses of red wine are associated with an increased risk of other cardiovascular pathologies (atrial fibrillation and arterial hypertension) and tumors. For every 10 grams of ethanol consumed (less than the amount contained in a glass of wine) there is an increased risk of breast (10%), colon (9%) and liver (17%) cancer. Values that double with 20 grams of ethanol, triple with 30 grams and so on.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified ethanol as a group 1 carcinogen (definitely carcinogenic substance). Furthermore, the World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that there is no dose that is free from health risks and that this increases proportionally with the doses consumed and regardless of the type of alcoholic beverage consumed (wine, beer, short).

Another myth to bust is that the consumption of wine can be justified by its intake of antioxidants. The content of these substances is actually extremely low, especially when compared to that of ethanol. Much more suitable is the contribution of antioxidant substances, such as polyphenols, using foods, food supplements and vegetable juices which, not containing alcohol, limit the harmful effects of ethanol.

For the reasons described, it is not possible to establish an amount free from health risks and that is why “low risk consumption” is defined as that not exceeding one glass per day for adult women and the elderly and two glasses for adult men.

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