Witness – if you dare! – the ongoing complexity of the relationship between wine and your health:
Back in January, I offered some advice about drinking wine when you’re on a diet. In summary: wine has calories, so if you’re watching your weight you need to watch your alcohol intake as well.
That article became pretty popular, and ever since posting it I’ve been on the lookout for a follow-up on the topic. Six months later, I’ve had readers (separately) send me links to two very interesting – and very different – answers to the question: Does this wine make me look fat?
Answer #1: NO
According to ScienceDaily.com, our old pal resveratrol – a substance found in red wine – might aid in the conversion of fat. From the article:
“When cells were exposed to resveratrol, our studies showed a pretty dramatic reduction in the conversion to fat cells and a lesser but still significant increase in the mobilization of existing fat…”
Sounds like good news for those looking to drink wine and cut their fat. But not so fast there, Richard Simmons…
Answer #2: YES
Resveratrol might help stave off some fat, but Bodybuilding.com cites a study that showed alcohol to mess with the body’s ability to process fat – and not in a positive way.
“For several hours after drinking… whole body lipid oxidation (a measure of how much fat your body is burning) dropped by 73%.”
Now, that study only had eight participants – hardly enough for statistical certainty. But it suggests that the relationship between alcoholic beverages and our bodies’ fat burning potential isn’t a simple one.
So which one is it?
Unfortunately, there is no way to tell. The only thing we know for sure is that wine has alcohol, and alcohol has calories, and consuming too many calories will probably get stored by your body as fat. Call me a sour-puss, but as far as I’m concerned there’s no fat-bustin’ magic bullet here. Better stick to a balanced diet, regular exercise, and enjoying your fave vino with the appropriate amount of moderation.
No doubt that a glass or two of red vino can awaken your youthful enthusiasm, under the right circumstances of course (dining with friends, during a hot date…).
But can red wine literally make you young at heart? As in, keeping your ticker from aging?
Apparently it might, according to this article released today by BBC News.
Actually, what the article states is that our old friend Resvertatrol, a compound found in red wines, appears to be able to do this – for mice.
Actually, what the article states is that Resveratrol in substantially larger quantities than can be safely delivered to your body through normal amounts of responsible red wine drinking, might have an anti-aging effect on heart genes.
When we hit a real health breakthrough with wine compounds that has a positive impact on humans, we’ll know it – because it will be much bigger news than any of these important (but inconclusive) lead-up studies.
If I sound skeptical, it’s not because I think this type of research isn’t valuable. It’s because the media oversells this research a bit, thereby fueling a specious supplement market. And because I like to skeptical. And cynical (I know… what a jerk!).
Don’t be too swayed by the media around this. When we hit a real health breakthrough with wine compounds that has a positive impact on humans, we’ll know it – because it will be much bigger news than any of these important (but inconclusive) lead-up studies.
In the meantime, if you want to get some health benefit from red wine, then enjoy a glass tonight and let the joy of connecting with that wine allow your hair to come down for a few minutes. It will probably do just as much good (maybe more) than the resveratrol that you’re consuming at the same time…
What’s the REAL connection between wine and your health?
Anyone who hasn’t been living the past few years on that crazy Lost island (with the ghosts and tropical polar bears and droll plot lines) has likely heard that wine is purported to have benefits to your overall health.
But the connection between better health and wine is not as straightforward as you might think. In fact, far from being a direct link, the wine/health connection is more like a Homeric journey, full of unexpected twits and turns.
A journey that is detailed in this post, with the Dude here acting as your host, as we visit the science lab, examine the (non-Karmic) laws of cause and effect, stop in Galapagos, and give a nod to Quantum Theory, while also troubleshooting my home wireless network. Also involved, unavoidably, is France (hey, we are talkin’ wine here, after all), and we end unexpectedly at MSNBC (where nobody really goes!).
It will all make sense in a minute or two (okay, maybe 5). So pack your intellectual bags, and let’s get rolling on the road to wine & health…
Ever since the (in)famous 60 Minutes special exploring the French Paradox (told you we couldn’t avoid France), scientific studies have been trying to test if wine consumption is the de facto reason behind why France’s high-fat-diet eating residents don’t keel over in their 30s from heart attacks.
To even begin to answer whether or not wine is or isn’t imparting various health benefits, including seemingly being the elixir of long life for the French, I’ve gotta explain the difference between scientific theory, and medical fact.
In science, it can be difficult to prove things as being indisputably true. In fact, whenever scientists state that something has been solved, you can bet within 10 years it will get turned totally on its ear. Which is partly why we have theories instead. Quite often, a scientific theory is never called fact, especially if it’s complex. Over time, if it stands up to enough quantitative evidence then it is taken to be true, even though to actually prove it might remain improbable. Good examples of this are certain aspects of Quantum Mechanics, as well as Dawin’s island turtle-inspired theory of Evolution – it’s unlikely that we can ever prove this theories unequivocally, but because they so accurately predict events in our universe, and are backed up by overwhelming amounts of scientific evidence, you’d be kind of nuts not to treat them as fact.
In science, it can be difficult to prove things as being indisputably true. In fact, whenever scientists state that something has been solved, you can bet within 10 years it will get turned totally on its ear.
That’s a bit different than medical facts. Medicine is concerned with cause and effect relationships. I.e., identifying positively that you have a certain disease that is causing your symptoms, and treating that disease as effectively as possible.
To illustrate the difference, let’s take a practical example. Let’s say your wife calls and tells you that she can’t get to the Internet via your home network. [Editors note: you have my permission to take a break at this point, and get yourself a glass of wine… but I swear to the heavens that this post will eventually teach you something about wine… hang in there, people!]. If when you get home you discover that the wireless router has been turned off, then you’ve got a pretty good case for having proved a cause-effect relationship why she didn’t have Internet access. BUT… I can’t then theorize that I every time she calls you, her Internet access will be down – that prediction would get you into a lot of trouble!
Okay, but back to wine, what does this all mean for the average wine-drinkin’ Joe or Jane?
Certain compounds found within wine have been proven to have potential health benefits. Of this, there can be little doubt based on the scientific evidence carried out in statistically meaningful studies. The potential list of health-friendly (including cardiovascular and anti-oxidant) wine compounds and their effects on your health is a long one so I won’t reprint it here. [ Check out these handy lists from WinePros.org and BeekmanWine.com for detailed info. on that. ]
Little evidence exists to suggest that wine itself is the de-facto cause of those health benefits. At least, not in the ‘Surgeon General can endorse it’ sense. It may feel obvious to normal folks that if wine has compounds that are good for you, then wine is probably the cause of the positive health benefits seen in wine consumers during scientific studies. But scientifically that conclusion cannot safely be drawn from the findings of existing studies (especially not in the medical field). For now, it’s just a guess – a reasonable one, but a guess nonetheless.
It may feel obvious to normal folks that if wine has compounds that are good for you, then wine is probably the cause of the positive health benefits seen in wine consumers during scientific studies. But scientifically that conclusion cannot safely be drawn from the findings of existing studies.
Plenty of evidence exists to link alcohol abuse to poor health. This one is also supported by a great deal of evidence, so it does not follow at all that if wine is good for you, more wine is better for you. In fact, exactly the opposite is true – alcohol abuse can be deadly to your health.
What’s scary is that fewer and fewer people seem to be getting the message. Check out this (non-scientific) poll from MSNBC for starters – not a perfect example but it shows that more people in that survey are drinking daily than not. Add in the rise in health-care costs from rising alcohol abuse in the States and in the UK, and you have a troubling trend on your hands.
Maybe the French Paradox has less to do with what the French eat and drink, and more with how they approach life in general. One of the code ideas of Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat is that French culture teaches how to respect food and wine, leading ultimately to true enjoyment of it with all of your senses (and away from abuse). While we’re probably never going to unequivocally prove that one, there just might be enough evidence to treat it as true…
(images: hwcoc.org, novusvinum.com, wordinfo.info, msnbc.msn.com)