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Looks at the health benefits and dangers of wine drinking as they relate to health and also defines moderation

Good news for wine lovers: your favourite alcoholic beverage could be doing you more well than harm. The health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption, and wine drinking specifically have been known for some time. But before you get too excited about that next drink, remember that alcohol is a double-edged sword and unless moderation is applied, the dangers outweigh the benefits.

The benefits of wine consumption are only apparent if the consumption is both regular and moderate.

For example, a glass of wine every 2 weeks is not going to give you enough benefit and neither is drinking more than the recommended 2 glasses for men and 1 glass for woman at each drinking session. Alcohol is still a toxin, and has many other risks associated with it. Alcohol is both a tonic and a poison- with antioxidant and heart protective benefits on the one side and raised triglycerides, increased cancer risk and liver problems on the other. And if you don’t already drink, it’s definitely not time to start! There are many other ways to raise your antioxidant levels, for example by eating more plant foods and drinking tea. But for people who do enjoy wine, this is the guide to making sure you reap the benefits and avoid the repercussions.

What is moderate drinking?

Moderate drinking means no more than:

  • 2 drinks/day for men
  • 1 drink/day for women

One drink is equivalent to:

· 340ml beer
· 120ml wine
· 60ml sherry
· 25ml spirits (whisky, brandy, vodka, gin etc.)
· 25ml liqueur

Nutritional value of alcohol

Each gram of alcohol contains 7 calories (or 29.4 kilojoules). To put that in perspective a gram of fat contains 9 calories (37.8 kilojoules) and a gram of either carbohydrate or protein contains only 4 calories (16.8 kilojoules). So gram for gram, alcohol is more calories dense than carbohydrates or proteins are. If you're watching your waistline, cutting down on alcohol will help to reduce calorie intake.

Alcohol is often referred to as a source of 'empty calories', meaning it has no nutritional value other than providing energy.

The energy provided by an alcoholic drink depends on the percentage of alcohol it contains, but also on the type of drink it is. As a rough guide:

  • A 340ml can of beer is about 148 calories (622 kilojoules)
  • A regular tot of spirit contains around 55 calories (231 kilojoules)
  • A standard glass of dry white wine or red wine is about 115 calories (483 kilojoules), and sweet wine is about 165 calories (693 kilojoules)
  • A creamy liqueur contains around 163 calories (685 kilojoules) per 50ml serving, while the same amount of sherry or port contains around 60 calories (252 kilojoules) a glass

The Health Benefits of Wine Drinking

Wine And Heart Disease Prevention

Alcohol consumed in moderation may help reduce the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular events. This link was first explained using what is known as the “French Paradox”. The French diet is considered to be very high in fat, and particularly in saturated fat. Despite this, the death rate from coronary heart disease (CHD) remains relatively low. Researchers thought that it might have something to do with the high intakes of fruit and vegetables as well as alcohol (particularly wine) in the French diet. Red wine in particular contains a flavonoid antioxidant called resveretrol, which is thought to be responsible for much of red wines benefits. A review study published in Endocrine, Metabolic and Immune Disorders June 2008 showed that moderate red wine consumption helps prevent metabolic syndrome and its related compilations, which include hypertension and elevated cholesterol. The review explains examples the role of resveretrol in mimicking calorie restriction and preventing the deleterious effects of excess food intake on insulin resistance.

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