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“For an American wine culture to flourish, the industry must actively embrace education - not only terroirs and wine’s role in a healthy lifestyle, but also the risks and the need for responsible consumption”
Richard Mendelson, From Demon to Darling: A Legal History of Wine in America


Many years of scientific research supports the notion that red wine, if consumed in moderation regularly with food and combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes adherence to the Mediterranean diet and exercise, can offer significant health benefits. The scientific community believes that it is a combination of alcohol and various polyphenols that give red wine its healthful properties, and that red wine can best exert its effects over the course of an adult lifetime, that is, through regular, daily consumption in moderation with meals. The pattern of drinking is important.

Good wine challenges our human frailties, because if it tastes good, we want to drink more of it. However, over drinking or binge drinking (more than 4 drinks on a single occasion for men and more than 3 drinks for women) should be avoided as it can lead to a number of serious health problems including sudden death from high blood pressure, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, or stroke. You are much better off not to drink wine at all than to drink too much wine. Constant heavy drinking can result in cardiac myopathy, cirrhosis of the liver, acute alcoholic hepatitis, osteoporosis, chronic gastritis, irritable bowel syndrome, tremors, insomnia, nightmares and night sweats, dementia, and cancer of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, stomach, liver, colon and breast.

The following are considered by the medical community to be generally accepted truths:

1. Binge drinking is not healthy at any age, but is particularly risky for high school and college age girls in whom this activity can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer later in life.
2. Any health benefits from light-to-moderate alcohol intake disappear with regular binge drinking.
3. Moderate wine drinkers are more protected against cardiovascular disease with much of the effect coming from alcohol.
4. Moderate drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes in men and women.
5. Moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower incidence of certain types of cancer (colon, ovary and prostate), but a modest increase in risk of other cancers (breast in women, and oropharyngeal and digestive especially in smokers).
6. There exists a modest risk of breast cancer from more than 1 drink a day in women (which must be weighed against the beneficial effects of light-to-moderate alcohol use on cardiovascular disease).
7. It is safest not to drink during pregnancy, although an occasional drink after the first trimester, preferably consumed slowly with food, seems of little serious concern. No safe level of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has been determined and there is a small margin before there is increased risk to the fetus.
8. Bone density and the risk of fracture are favorably affected by light-to-moderate drinking in women.
9. Reservatrol supplements are of no proven health value
10. Resveratrol holds potential as a preventive and therapeutic modality for cancers.

As an informed physician, I am with the majority of health experts who are confident that wine in moderation is good for you, especially for middle-age to older people. If nothing else, it provides gustatory pleasure and relaxation. As Julia Child remarked, “The fact that people drink wine to relax and enjoy life is, in itself, enough a health benefit for everyone.” There is no optimal level of alcohol consumption My prescription is 5 ounces of wine for women and 10 ounces of wine for men, preferably red and Pinot Noir, to be enjoyed most days and consumed with food. That said, wine drinking may not be advisable for everyone, and one should consult with their doctor about the effects of wine consumption on their health as well as lifestyle and diet advice and choose a personalized course. Those under 21 years of age should not consume alcohol.



For more reading on alcohol, wine and health, consult the following sources.

Biomedical literature: www.pubmed.gov

Evaluates of emerging scientific publications and policy statements: www.bu.edu/alcohol-forum/reviews/

Relevant medical articles on alcohol and health: www.french-paradox.net

In depth reviews of selected scientific publications: www.academicwino.com

Informative websites: Distilled Spirits Council of US - www.drinkinmoderation.org, US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - www.niaaa.nih.gov, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - www.cdc.gov/alcohol/, UK National Health Service - www.nhs.uk, and US Department of Agriculture Dietary Guidelines - www.cnpp.usda.gov.

Books: Age Gets Better With Wine: New Science for a Healthier Better & Longer Life, Richard A. Baxter, M.D.; Drinking Diaries: Women Serve Their Stories Straight Up, Leah Odze Epstein & Caren Osten Gerszberg editors; DRINK: A Cultural History of Alcohol, Iain Gately.

Journal: Drug and Alcohol Review

Meeting: WineHealth 2013 will be held in Sydney, Australia July 18-21, 2013. This conference brings together world experts for an exchange of scientific information and ideas on the impacts of wine consumption on human health, and to explore the epidemiological evidence of the effect of wine as a unique alcoholic beverage. Registration opens February 4, 2013, for scientists, researchers, healthcare professionals, medical practitioners and public health professionals. Members of the Renaud Society are cordially invited. Visit www.winehealth.com.au/.

Website: WineAmerican and Health Communications, Inc (HCL), provider of the Training for Intervention ProcedureS (TIPS) program, announced in January, 2013, a partnership that will promote responsible consumption of wine among wineries in the United States. WineAmerica is the only trade association with national membership and the only organization dedicated to advancing the social responsibility of the American wine industry. HCI is a nationally recognized expert in the field of alcohol server and seller training. The TIPS program can train WineAmerica members to prevent the misuse of alcohol through the prevention of intoxication, underage drinking, and drunk driving. There are TIPS-certified trained people in all 50 states and over 40 foreign countries. WebAmerica will be launching a web page that will be dedicated to providing members with the resources they need to encourage social responsibility and implement TIPS at their wineries. Visit www.wineamerica.org and www.gettips.com.

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