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POSTED FEBRUARY 19, 2018, 10:30 AM , UPDATED JANUARY 29, 2020, 12:00 PM
Summarized June 29, 2020

 Hey, let’s have a couple of glasses of red wine, after all, it’s good for me…right?

Isn’t that what we now think every time we indulge in this luscious liquid treat ?

We have gotten this notion from ‘Dr. Oz’ as well as what’s known as the French Paradox.

The French Paradox started somewhere in the late ‘80s, saying that a diet filled with cheese, fatty foods, and red wine, accounted for low numbers with heart related illnesses.  The benefits of the red wine came in the form of plant compounds called polyphenols.  Polyphenols are in grapes, other fruits, and nuts.  The Mediterranean diet has also been associated with these lower numbers in heart disease.

Unfortunately, the studies regarding red wine and alcohol, to avoid heart illnesses is somewhat inconclusive, says Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.  “The research showing that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have lower rates of heart disease is observational. Such studies can’t prove cause and effect, only associations.”

Polyphenols may be beneficial to the heart, but the health benefits or health effects of alcohol, over a long term basis have yet to be done.

Fortunately, there have been some studies that reference that wine is better than other alcohol, but then there are some experts  that say it’s not, according to a review article about wine and cardiovascular health in the Oct. 10, 2017, issue of Circulation.  Dr. Mukamal says, “That’s not surprising. In many cases, it’s difficult to tease out the effect of drinking patterns from specific types of alcoholic beverages,” he explains. “For example, people who drink wine are more likely do so as part of a healthy pattern, such as drinking a glass or two with a nice meal. Those habits — rather than their choice of alcohol —may explain their heart health.”

Many of those that have studied the paradox have found that other factors, other than red wine may be the reason for the decrease in heart disease, such as lifestyle and an overall more healthy diet. Dr. Mukamal says that “the French doctors didn’t always report heart disease deaths so that factor skews the research analysis. What’s more, Dr. Mukamal notes, heart disease rates in Japan are lower than in France, yet the Japanese drink a lot of beer and clear spirits, but hardly any red wine.”

…And the Polyphenols?

Dr. Mukamal says that “the research done on mice, regarding polyphenols, is compelling but there’s zero evidence of any benefit for people who take resveratrol supplements.”

“And you’d have to drink a hundred to a thousand glasses of red wine daily to get an amount equivalent to the doses that improved health in mice”, he says.

There was a study done in 2014 of adults living in Italy.  The diet they consumed was high in resveratrol, and they found no link between resveratrol levels and rates of cancer, heart disease, or death. In regards to the Mediterranean diet, “it’s impossible to know whether red wine is an important part of why that eating style helps reduce heart disease,” says Dr. Mukamal.

Bottom Line

Red wine’s “your thing”?  Okay, but it’s been suggested to limit your overall intake. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the American Geriatric Society recommend that starting at age 65, men should limit their alcohol use to no more than a single drink per day. Age-related changes, including a diminished ability to metabolize alcohol, make higher amounts risky regardless of gender.

As a recommendation, one typical 5 oz serving or no more than a single drink, will be just what the doctor ordered!

It’s inconclusive if it might help with health disease benefits, but it probably won’t hurt!

For more information on this topic and the complete article, please refer to:

Julie Corliss
Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

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