With the mainstream media offering up plenty of articles about the health benefits of wine, it’s easy to see why many of us see it as something that might be good for us. However, such sensationalist articles often fail to provide the whole story, opting for soundbites that will entice readers as opposed to rigorous scientific reasoning. So how legitimate are these claims, and how might we enjoy a glass of wine in the healthiest way? These are very common questions that I get asked often, so I will attempt to address them in the clearest way possible.
Where the wine question originates from
People first started looking into the health benefits of wine as it was found that some of the world’s greatest lovers of wine around the Mediterranean area were living longer than those in other parts of the world. In many ways, this can be attributed to the composition of their diet: olive oil, fruits, seeds, nuts and whole grains all feature heavily, along with a moderate intake of meats, fish and wine, with almost no sweets or processed foods. Indeed, diets which are largely plant-based tend to be much better for us as they are very rich in nutrients and contribute towards a lower body weight, which is a good indicator for how long a person will live.
What the science has found
Having noted the benefits of a plant-based diet, it should be noted that wine has been found to contain phytochemicals, which are helpful in protecting against coronary heart disease. This is the main piece of research that the media will point towards and, while true, such chemicals can be found in other foods including broccoli, tea and kale.
Indeed, one of the important things to think about when considering how much wine you would like to include in your diet is its detrimental effects: wine can contribute to around 10% of a person’s calorie intake and the ethanol found inside it can inhibit fat mobilisation, increase urinary nitrogen excretion, and inhibit protein synthesis. None of these things are good for a healthy body.
So how healthy is wine?
As a stand alone food, no, but as long as it is consumed in small amounts and the rest of the diet is full of nutritious foods, wine is not likely to have much of an effect on your overall health. To label it as a health food, however, is misleading.