Ah, red wine. For many of us, just thinking of that gorgeously jewel toned red-purple liquid can evoke thoughts of delicious food and good times. After all, wine, good times, and food are definitely a match made in heaven, yes? And, you may have heard that drinking red wine has health benefits. So, win-win, right? Now, it’s true that moderate alcohol consumption has been linked with a lower incidence of coronary heart disease as a large number of observational studies have shown. Note that this only applies to moderate drinking which is about one drink or less per day for women, and for men, two drinks or less.
But, is moderate alcohol consumption really healthy for your heart or not?
The connection between alcohol and the reduced risk of getting heart disease is thought to be due not mainly to a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, per se, but because alcohol interferes with blood clotting. This benefit is really only valuable for people consuming a heart-disease-promoting diet which encourages the formation of clots. Now, if you are someone who eats plenty of unrefined plant foods, you will not have the increased risk of clots forming. In fact, you will already have a high level of protection against getting heart disease, so the effect of blood thinning from the red wine you may drink really would not add any protection. This additional thinning of your blood with alcohol may put you at risk for something really bad, like hemorrhagic stroke! Yikes!
So far, we have just been talking about moderate drinking. But, what if you move into the heavy category? That’s considered to be three or more alcoholic drinks per day. Talk about dangerous! Heavy drinking is associated with majorly bad effects on the cardiovascular system. I’m talking big baddies like cardiomyopathy, hypertension, and even life-threatening arrhythmias!
Light drinking poses other risks because the body metabolizes alcohol into acetaldehyde which is a carcinogenic compound. Ladies, take note, because studies have shown that women who drink 3-6 alcoholic drinks weekly were found to have a 15% increase in breast cancer risk compared to those who did not drink. And that many drinks per week is also linked with higher rates of the recurrence of breast cancer. Increased cancer risk due to light drinking is not limited to just breast cancer. In 2014, the International Agency for Research on Cancer reported that there is no safe amount of alcohol when it comes to cancer risk. Alcohol is also implicated as a villain in the cause of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, colon, rectum and liver! Ugh!
On a good note, red wine does contain a beneficial compound from grape skins called resveratrol. Studies have shown that resveratrol has several anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects that may contribute to cardiovascular disease protection. But, it’s not necessary to hit the wine bottle to get all of that resveratrol goodness. Resveratrol can be found in foods like grapes, raisins, blueberries, cranberries, peanuts, and other plant foods.
Why not be safe and eat a diet that prevents heart disease rather than to rely on alcohol to decrease the potential for clotting. Besides, the resveratrol in the occasional glass of red wine will be only a drop in the bucket of beneficial phytonutrients than can be had in a plant food rich diet. Stay plantstrong and you can’t go wrong! To your good health!