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Alcohol in Moderation  


For the past decade or so there has been an ongoing debate about the health benefits of alcohol, particularly red wine.  Many wonder how such drinks could possibly be beneficial, as alcohol is a toxin and its consumption has consistently been linked to, amongst others, cardiovascular heart diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, and decreased longevity.  While these may in fact occur with heavy usage, studies cite that moderate alcohol consumption has been found to have potentially positive effects on the following ailments:



Common Cold      Kidney Stones       Insulin Sensitivity            Diabetes

Parkinson’s Disease        Osteoporosis         Alzheimer’s Disease        Cognition and Memory

Digestion               Pancreatic Cancer            Hepatitis A            Arthritis

Stress and Depression



Wine has been the focus of most recent studies and will be the primary focus of this website. According to the “French Paradox”, in which the French have poor diets but wonderful health, and the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid, wine concurrent with meals promotes favorable biochemical interactions which reduce the risk of various chronic diseases.


In moderation, this beverage aids in:


DIGESTION-  Wine enhances the digestive process by increasing the flow of gastric juices

HEART DISEASE-  Red wine helps drive bad cholesterol from the arteries, reducing the risk of  stroke and angina

VIRUSES-  Red wine’s polyphenols fight against viruses such as cold sores

AGING-  In moderation, wine leads to lower incidences of disability and mental illness

CANCER-  Quercetin, found in red wines, is an anti-cancer agent activated as the wine naturally ferments in the body


KIDNEY-  Wine enhances the body’s alkaline reserves, helping to combat kidney acidosis

VITAMINS AND MINERALS-  Various wines are rich in potassium, calcium, iron, sodium,  magnesium, and vitamins B and P.






The ranges of alcohol contents for beer, wine, and distilled spirits vary.  Typically, a regular beer is roughly 4.5% alcohol.  A glass of wine ranges from 11%-14%.  Vodka, whisky, gin and the like, range from 40%-50% alcohol, often expressed in proofs of 80 or 100.  With these various ranges kept in mind, it is often difficult to establish a worldwide standard for an alcoholic beverage.  The United States Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services developed a U.S. standard (Dufour, 1999).  A drink, which contains approximately .5 fl oz, is equivalent to:

12 fl oz. beer


5 fl oz. wine


1.5 fl oz 80 proof distilled spirit


A female who has one of any of these drinks per day, and a male who has two per day is considered a MODERATE DRINKER.





Numerous studies have shown that moderate wine consumption contributes to keeping the body healthy.   A two month study was performed by a nutrition and immunity specialist. Using mice, she examined the immune system’s reaction to red wine.  Mice were given a portion of red wine, equivalent to two or three glasses, heavy alcohol, or nothing.  It was found that mice who drank red wine had a normal level of immunity, the same as those who drank no alcohol.


Even in humans, wine’s effects are prevalent. Results from a study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that men who drank moderately, two to six drinks per week, were healthier on the overall as compared to men who drank more than two drinks per day.  Their health was even better than that of non-drinkers.





With every glass of wine that we drink, our body receives approximately 200 different phenolic compounds.  These phenols possess various beneficial effects.  These effects are due to the  presence of antioxidants ( resveratrol, catechin, and quercetin). Other compounds such as flavanoids and tannins also contribute to better health.


Research of 16 red wines shows that when measured by electron spin resonance, phenol content is strongly correlated to antioxidant activity. This activity is associated with gallic acid, resveratrol, and catechin content (Burns et. al, 2000).



A 1996 study performed by UCDavis found that mice had higher concentrations of catechin after being fed wine, freeing their bodies of cancer tumors 40% longer than sibling mice who received no wine. The wine solid delayed tumor onset.



          This antioxidant has been linked to the reduction of breast cancer.



          Resveratrol has been shown to lower low density lipoproteins (LDL), our bad cholesterol.  In addition, it has been found important in platelet aggregation, inhibiting platelet clumping in the blood, and thereby decreasing the risk of heart attacks (Waterhouse, 1995).  Also, resveratrol contributes to the modulation of lipid metabolism (Fremont, 2000).

Maybe It's The Grapes!  



It’s common knowledge that wine is made from grapes.  So, many of the health benefits which we gain from drinking wine stem from its fruity composition.  Resveratrol is naturally present in grape skin, protecting the grapes from fungus.  Thus, resveratrol’s estrogenic properties which benefit our cardiovascular health can be provided in grapes alone.


This theory was tested by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  After having 15 subjects drink Welch’s grape juice for two weeks, they found free flowing blood levels similar to those present when a person drinks wine.  The risk of blood clots was significantly lowered and a person could avoid intoxication to gain this beneficial result (Jaret, 2000).


One thing that we must realize is that white wines and red wines are processed differently.  The skin and seeds in white wine production are separated immediately after crushing the grapes, thus flavonoid levels are lower than those of the red wine.


Wine and the Blood: A Healthy Heart                                                

Our heart is the key to our health and wine is the key to our heart.  In more than 50 cross-sectional studies, drinking wine in moderation has shown no correlation with high blood pressure.  Only heavy consumption leads to increased hypertension.



Blood flow is increased with the antioxidants of wine, lowering the occurrence of peripheral arterial disease (PAD) in which the arteries clog and diminish circulation in the legs.  This was demonstrated in a 1997 Harvard study in which men who were daily drinkers had lower incidence of PAD than those who drank only occasionally or not at all.  Their risk was reduced by 32% (Camargo, 1997).  In another study, red wine and dealcoholized red wine were analyzed for their endothelial function.  Subjects drank 250ml of the wines and artery dilation was measured afterwards at various time intervals. It was found that drinking only the red wine with alcohol contributed to a significantly higher blood flow from the brachial artery. Thus the ethanol plays a large part in increasing circulation, a discovery which partly contradicts findings about grape juice stated above (Agewall, 2000).



The risk of stroke is also lowered with moderate alcohol use.  There is a reduced likelihood of having an ischemic stroke, which is 5 times more common than hemorrhagic stroke.  As cited by CNN, white or red wine reduced the occurrence of stroke by nearly a third in a sample of 13,000.  The same was not true for beer or other liquors. Even more encouraging is that those who abstain from alcohol were found to have twice the risk of stroke than the moderate consumers.




Alcohol also has a significant impact on Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease.  The consumption curve is U shaped, with moderate drinkers at the lowest risk.  Support for this is found in a Kaiser Permanente study which determined the association of CAD risk and drinks per day with various alcoholic beverages.  Findings concluded that those patients who drank red wine, white wine, both wines, or other wine types, were significantly protected against Coronary Artery Disease (Klatsky, 1999).


Wine and the Body  



Aside from helping our hearts, drinking wine can benefit various organs and alleviate ailments of our entire body.




Although alcohol can lower blood sugar levels to the point of hypoglycemia, or raise glucose levels due to the carbohydrates in certain drinks, the Joslin Diabetes Center states that persons using insulin can include two alcoholic beverages in their mealplan, while those without insulin can use alcohol for an extra fat or carbohydrate.



Resveratrol has been found to inhibit NF-kappa B which protects both healthy and cancer cells.  Thus, wine helps kill cancerous cells before multiplying.

Low doses of polyphenols have been found to decrease cancer cell proliferation, minimizing breast cancer cell growth (Damianaki, 2000).



A 1996 study found that wine, out of 21 beverages, was the most strongly associated with decreased risk of kidney stones.  It decreased the likelihood of occurrence by 39%.



A recent study of 3,700 elderly people in the South of France found that moderate wine drinkers were able to decrease the prevalence of Alzheimer’s by 75% as compared to those who drank minimally.  No cognitive impairments were found as a result of the wine use.



Resveratrol thwarts the activation of cyclooxgenase-2 (COX-2), a gene found in the human mammary and oral epithelial cells which creates the inflammation and pain of arthritis.  Luckily, when wine alleviates this pain, it can diminish the growth of cancerous tumors and the emergence of Alzheimer’s as well.  They are both influenced by this same gene.



Wine research has shown that moderate consumption of wine helps increase longevity.



                                                                                                 Copenhagen City Heart Study (1995)








The American Cancer Society found that those who drink under 3 alcoholic beverages a day, every day, are less likely to die during the given research period than those who abstain or drink heavily.  This is due to positive effects such as lower bad cholesterol, increased good cholesterol, and reduced clotting. 



WINE VS. BEER AND SPIRITS                        



Now that we have seen the benefits of wine, let us glance at the benefits of other alcoholic beverages.  As stated earlier, moderation of any can be healthy.  In a study performed in Denmark, the intake of various beverages were analyzed in relation to a person’s self reported subjective health.  There were over 12,000 subjects in this study, providing a relatively large sample.  Light to moderate wine drinkers were found to have higher perceived health when compared to those who drank beer and liquor (Gronbaek et. al, 1999).


When looking at the proteins and vitamins in these beverages however, beer is found to have more proteins and B vitamins than wine.  In addition, beer has comparable antioxidant levels.  These levels are, however, of different flavonoids, since barley and hops vary significantly from grapes (Denke, 2000). 








Even whisky has advantageous effects.  According to the Rowett Research Institute in the UK, healthy males who

drank 100ml of wine and 100ml of

whisky had similar and significant

increases in their plasma total phenol

content and antioxidant capacity. These

findings contribute to the belief that

phenolic-containing alcoholic beverages,

whether wine or not, decrease the risk

of coronary heart disease (Duthie, 1998).               



It is, therefore, difficult to claim one beverage healthier

than another, since each has its own positive health effects.



As of February 6, 1999, the FDA placed the following label on bottles of wine:

“The proud people who made this wine encourage you to consult

 your family doctor about the health effects of wine consumption”


After reviewing the above research claims, most doctors would undoubtedly support the notion that wine and other alcoholic beverages do, in fact, have advantageous effects when used in moderation!  Further studies should be performed in order to expand our knowledge of alcohol’s ability to provide such benefits, as well as to help us discover additional illnesses that the drinks may prevent.





Agewall, S., Wright, S., Doughty, R.N., Whalley, G.A., Duxbury, M., and Sharpe, N. Does a glass of red wine improve endothelial functioning? European Heart Journal, 2000; 21(1): 74-48.


Burns, J., Gardner, P.T., O’Neil, J., Crawford, S., Morecroft, I., McPhail, D.B., Lister, C., Matthews, D., Maclean, M.R., Lean, M.E., Duthie, G.G., and Crozier, A.  Relationship among antioxidant activity, vasodilation capacity, and phenolic content in red wines. Journal of Agriculture, Food and Chemicals, 2000; 48(2): 220-230.


Camargo, C.A. Jr., et. al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and risk of periperal arterial disease in US male physicians. Circulation, 1997; 95(3): 577-580.


Denke, M.A. Nutritional and health benefits of beer. American Journal of Medical Sciences, 2000; 320(5): 320-326.


Dufour, M.C. What is moderate drinking? Alcohol Health and Research World, 1999; 23(1): 5-18.


Duthie, G.G., Pedersen, M.W., Gardner, P.T., Morrice, P.C., Jenkinson, A.M., McPhail, D.B., and Steel,G.M. The effect of whisky and wine consumption on total phenol content and antioxidant capacity of plasma from healthy volunteers. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998; 52(10): 733-736.


Fremont, L. Biological effects of resveratrol. Life Sciences, 2000; 66(8): 663-673.


Gronbaek, M., Mortensen, E.L., Mygind, K., Andersen, A.T., Becker, U., Gluud, C., and Sorensoen, T.I.  Beer, wine, spirits and subjective health. Journal of Epidemiol Community Health, 1999: 53(11): 721-724.


Klatsky, A.L. Moderate drinking and reduced risk of heart disease. Alcohol Health and Research World, 1999; 23(1): 15-27.


Stein, J.H., Keevil, J.G., Wiebe, D.A., Aeschlimann, S., and Folts, J.D.  Purple grape juice improves endothelial function and reduces the susceptibility of LDL cholesterol to oxidation in patients with coronary artery disease. Circulation, 1999; 100(10): 1050-1055.


Waterhouse, A.L.  Wine and heart disease.  Chemistry & Industry, 1 May 1995: 338-341.


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