Monday, February 15, 2010

A modern view of moderation

We hear so much about wine being healthy in moderation. Then there is the popular (and cynical) saying, “all things in moderation, including moderation.” If you are drinking wine for your health, and who doesn’t, it is actually quite important to define the term “moderation” if we are to get the maximum benefit. If you drink for purely aesthetic reasons, or anesthetic reasons for that matter, then you have other considerations to deal with. But here’s the deal on moderation:
Studies on wine drinking and health in populations often use weekly alcohol consumption as a convenient measure. From data like that we get the familiar J-shaped curve, showing that maximum health benefits are associated with about 2-3 glasses of wine a day for men and half that for women, and disease risk about equal to that of nondrinkers at about double that level of consumption (the bottom loop of the “J”.) But we also know that binge drinking is particularly bad, so the pattern of daily drinking is critical. You can’t do all your drinking on the weekend and expect any health benefit, despite the inconveniences that can occur during a busy workweek.
Integrating your wine consumption with meals seems to be important as well. This slows the absorption of alcohol, but also provides antioxidant capacity to counteract many of the harmful compounds that are found in the modern diet. There have been some interesting clinical studies on this point and it seems to have scientific validity. Perhaps just as important is that drinking with meals sets an example of wine as food rather than alcohol as a drug, reinforcing the concept of healthy drinking.
So how big are these glasses of wine? I know what you are thinking, if I have to limit myself to only 2 glasses, I’ll just get bigger glasses. But for purposes of research, a drink has to be defined so for wine it is a 5-oz. pour. Unfortunately, that makes a standard 750 ml bottle a bit much for a man and a woman to split. On the other hand, the half-bottles (375) don’t really fill the bill either; any winemakers out there want to do a 500 ml bottle?

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