Wine has been found to be beneficial to health for thousands of years, provided it is taken in moderation. This means taking no more than 250 mLs of wine a day for a woman, or 500 mLs a day for a man. Men can drink more than women because they are generally heavier than women and less of their natural body weight is made of fat (which does nor absorb alcohol well). An average man is considered to weigh 80Kg and a woman 60Kg.
Wine contains between 80 and 90% water, 8 to 15% alcohol (more in fortified wines), sugar (less in dry wines), and acids. There are also trace amounts of minerals, vitamins and amino acids (the building blocks for proteins). Wine also contains the most potent antioxidants known, mainly by converting the bad low-density cholesterols into the good high density ones.
Wine has health benefits over other forms of alcohols because of these additional ingredients. Spirits are generally bad for overall health, and beer neutral, while moderate wine drinkers tend to live longer than both total abstainers and those who drink excessive amounts.
The primary benefit of moderate red or white wine consumption is in the area of vascular (blood vessel) disease, as it reduces the incidence of heart attacks, strokes and blood clots. Other benefits described in various scientific papers include:
- a reduction in depression and anxiety,
- better sleep patterns,
- an overall reduction of up to 24% in the incidence of all cancers,
- improved memory in the elderly with less dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,
- fewer gallstones and stomach ulcers,
- even better vision as it helps to prevent the eye disease macular degeneration.
Wine has been used for centuries as an antiseptic, and its use in nursing homes and institutions is well recognised to improve morale.
Wine has also been used medicinally to ease nausea, improve appetite, as a sedative, to purify contaminated water, as a tonic, to prevent scurvy, as a diuretic (increase urine output), to disguise bad tastes and as a liniment.
The “French paradox” – a nation of people who eat a lot of animal fats (eg. paté) but who have a lower than average incidence of heart disease – is explained by their regular but moderate (in most cases) use of wine throughout life.
Some doctors are now arguing that NOT drinking moderate amounts of wine regularly is the second biggest health risk after smoking.