Posts Filed Under wine health
Recently, a 1WD reader wrote in to ask me what I thought about the recent spate of news indicating that alcohol is bad for your health. Here’s his initial correspondence, which he gave me permission to share with you all:
I was reading a few articles in Decanter for class when I came across one (admittedly attention-grabbing) article. The UK’s equivalent of the Surgeon General has apparently decided there’s “no safe level of drinking”. She has also cut the guideline maximum for men weekly to 14 units (a unit is approximately 2.5 US fluid ounces of 13% abv wine). Here is the article: http://www.decanter.com/wine-news/uk-alcohol-guidelines-no-safe-drinking-level-as-daily-limit-cut-287142/.
To put it mildly, I think this is complete and utter bullshit. It’s not that I think moderate alcohol consumption is bad–far from it. Indeed, I think there are people who should try to avoid alcohol completely, including those who have no control over their own drinking whatsoever. However, from what I’ve read over the years, there is a “J-shaped curve” associated with various diseases (particularly coronary-related) and alcohol consumption. A quick internet search led me to this for cardiovascular health: http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/562474_2, and WineAnorak had this for other benefits: http://www.wineanorak.com/healother.htm.
While there are health risks associated with alcohol use, as well, including oesophageal cancers, there are health risks associated with nearly everything. Taking a stroll after work is healthy, for example, but there’s a risk I could get hit by a car, or get hypothermia or heat stroke (depending on the weather), or bitten by a mosquito carrying West Nile virus. Even hiding at home trying to avoid all risks of mortality doesn’t rule out dying of various things, such as unexpected meteor impact, heart attack from a combination of lack of exercise and stress from perceived impending doom, or starvation since I’d run out of groceries eventually if I refuse to leave the house. Paranoia to that extent is almost reason to cause someone to drink.
Sorry about that rant. I read that article and it riled me up; I felt it would be something I’d love to hear your opinion and commentary on, as well.
In a follow-up correspondence, he had this to add about the subject:
I read another two studies about raised breast cancer risks from light-to-moderate alcohol usage as compared to abstinence this last week. One was a study of about 48000 people from the 1980s to 2010. The other was a meta-study. Both found an approximately 10% risk of breast cancer in abstainers, and an approximately 12.5% risk in light-to-moderate drinkers. I didn’t see anything about mortality, metastasizing, or recurrence. It didn’t seem that other risk factors besides smoking were necessarily controlled for. I’ll have to use some Google-fu to find them again, but though neither was precisely friendly towards alcohol, what I understood from their conclusions was essentially, “There’s a slightly elevated risk of breast cancer from drinking alcohol. It’s not much to worry about, but if you are paranoid, you can stop drinking.”
Now, bearing in mind that, to the best of my knowledge, neither he nor I are medical professionals, here’s my take on all of this…
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In the immortal words of William Shatner, “I hate to be the bearer of bad news.”
But… you should know that, according to research very recently published in the journal Nature, our old pal resveratrol (a compound found in red wine, among other things) might not be the key to everlasting youth.
OMG! Who would ever have guessed such a terrible thing?! Oh wait, haven’t we been cautioning against the resveratrol craze for something like four years here on 1WD?
Anywaaaaaay… long-story-made-short, a 2006 Harvard study once found that resveratrol might increase production of proteins called sirtuins, which were found at the time to possible prolong the lives of obese mice. Good news for you red-wine-drinking obese mice out there, or so it was thought at the time.
Turns out, according to the findings being published in Nature, the initial study might have been flawed, and all this stuff around red wine/resveratrol/sirtuins prolonging life might have been a bit overblown. Bad news for you red-wine-drinking obese mice out there. And maybe also for GlaxoSmithKline, who paid over $700 million for the company that the initial study’s author David Sinclair founded to make a drug from the substance.
NPR.org has a great detailed report on all of the above, embedded below for your listening pleasure. I suggest relaxing with a glass of red wine while you listen to it – not because the red wine will make you live longer, but because the relaxing might help you live longer (or if not, at least help you enjoy the moment a bit more than usual).
I recently received a shipment of wine samples from the critics’ darling Molly Dooker, which came with a handy set of instructions on how to perform the now-famous “Molly Dooker Shake.” The Molly Dooker shake is the arguably inelegant but certainly effective way to release the nitrogen that is used is bottling several of the Molly Dooker line of wines.
But I ran into some trouble when I hopped onto the Molly Dooker website to learn a bit more about why they use nitrogen in the winemaking process in the first place. Not technical trouble, but accuracy trouble.
The accuracy trouble is that their explanation contains less truth than it does (as Steven Colbert likes to put it) truthiness.
Here’s the explanation, given both on the Molly Dooker website and in the demonstration video of the Molly Dooker shake; I’ve added comments to the quote below to indicate the parts that as far as I can tell have Truth and those that have truthiness:
“Why do we use Nitrogen gas in our winemaking? Sulphites are often added to wine after fermentation to protect the wine from oxidation [Truth]. The only problem is that some people have an allergy to high levels of sulphites [Truth] and may get headaches [truthiness – if they mean getting headaches from sulphites, that is]. By using Nitrogen to protect the wine during winemaking, we can use less sulphites [Truth] and more people can enjoy our wines [truthiness].”
Now… let’s break this truth vs. truthiness down in a little more detail…
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As my twitter friends are already (painfully) aware, I’ve been sick for the better part of two weeks. What began as a bout with either a bad cold or a mild flu became a full-on assault from a (very) nasty case of bronchitis. Fever, coughing, meds, antibiotics, and definitely no wine.
It was suggested to me by a few folks via twitter that I should write about the experience of my forced abstinence. Initially I was hesitant, because no one wants to read about somebody hacking up brown goo, getting no sleep, and taking various meds – well, maybe only medical students, and they’re sure to find more interesting (read: more virulent, nasty and violent) cases than mine.
I promise no references to sticky brown lung goo. Or does that last sentence count?
Anyway… truth be told, I needed the break from booze, because I’ve been doing too much wine drinking and not enough wine tasting, and that was seriously messing with my cholesterol numbers. But little did I know that my 12 days of forced abstinence would involve codeine, glam-metal icons KISS, and actual gratitude towards my illness.
I am serious about the gratitude. And about KISS. And the Humpty Dance. This will all make sense in a minute or two… or maybe not, I dunno, I was pretty hopped up on some codeine meds.
So, here it is, because you asked for it – my pseudo-diary from “The 12 Days of Abstinence!”…
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