INSHAPE NEWS OPINION
Sigrid de Castella – ‘Half the Woman I Was’ Author
In the quest for the modern holy grail of longevity it seems we each have a theory on how much red wine is actually beneficial to our health. But in the wake of conflicting research and admist the absence of any tangible evidence, perhaps we should instead be asking, “Is the cup of life actually real?”
Most of the reported health benefits of red wine revolve around its non-alcoholic phenolic compounds. Scientifically speaking, this means hundreds of chemicals that when combined in varying quantities produce the colour, astringency, bitterness and aroma of a wine. Mostly it’s the compounds that produce dark red colours that reportedly provide the most promise for longevity.
There are a plethora of articles which refer to the health benefits of flavonoids anthocyanins and tannins, along with non-flavandoids, resveratrol and phenolic acids. These health claims seem to cover the whole gambit from sleep and blood sugar regulation to overall longevity, improved heart and brain health, cancer and common cold prevention as well as the reduction of inflammation, LDL (bad) cholesterol, dementia and stress. It’s not surprising that all this could lead you to conclude that red wine is the modern day cure-all for disease.
But the truth of the matter is there exists no conclusive research that proves red wine is good for you, and most of these theories still remain totally unproven. That’s not to say they don’t exist, but we do need to be mindful that the placebo effect may at times supersede real results, and that some of these reports may have even been founded on the Chinese Whispers of marketing departments.
What we do know is that wine contains alcohol, usually anywhere from nine to 16 percent. Ethyl alcohol, which relaxes us and reduces the harmful effects of stress, also dehydrates the body, numbs the senses and lowers inhibitions. Thus, before we know it our self-control heads right out the window as we reach for the pretzels, cheese and biscuits or that whole packet of Tim Tams.
We also know that alcohol is a simple carbohydrate and, depending on the residual sweetness and percentage alcohol of wine, 100 millilitres of it can contain 0.2 to 10 grams of sugar. So there are also calories to consider.
Now if you accept, as I do, that red wine can play a beneficial role in the modern diet, it seems the evidence for how much should be consumed is equally conflicting. It is suggested that you consume anything from two to four standard drinks two to seven days a week. I’m sure you could find an acceptable piece of research to suit your particular consumption preference.
Having recently completed my Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) certification, I’m further perplexed by the mismatch between the official standard drink of 100 millilitres and the fluctuation in standard pours of 120 to 200 millilitres. Of course, this may also depend on how well you know the barman.
With anything over four standard drinks, which equates to around half a bottle of wine, in a single session now being considered as ‘binge drinking’, it’s just as well Australian wine drinkers now prefer big bold Cabernets and Shiraz. After all we might just live longer.
Sigrid de Castella is an internationally published author, speaker, and coach in the fields of health and business. Her book “Half The Woman I Was” – How I lost 70kg naturally, reclaimed my life … and how you can too!” has received international acclaim and has been hailed as the most comprehensive weight loss book on the market. Sigrid has also studied Personal Training with the Fitness Institute Australia and has a keen interest in whole food nutrition, natural therapies and all aspects of physical and mental health. Sigrid and holds a BBA from RMIT University and is a member of both the Australian Institute of Managers and the Australian Society of Authors.
Sputnik – Chief Swashbukler, The Swashbucklers Club (I’m also an ultra runner and author if that is still too weird)
The glass isn’t actually half full.
I know everyone wants to hear that something they mostly know is bad for them, is actually good for them. It’s the Utopian truth isn’t it? Cream cakes may be fattening, but they’re good for your Lymphatic system. Or sure, Hot Chips are high in cholesterol but they have a chemical that protects you against cancer. Sadly, to the best of my non-scientific knowledge, none of those things are in the slightest bit true. Which is a pity, because I love hot chips almost as much as I hate cancer.
So what about red wine? Every 12 months or so, some red wine guzzling scientist drags out the old, “A glass of red wine a week may actually be good for your heart,” routine. I don’t want to be the conspiracy theorist cynic who questions the legitimacy of everything, but let’s face it, a lot of research is funded by vested interests. The traditional ‘food pyramid’ was apparently funded by the Meat & Livestock and Dairy industries. So it’s little wonder meat and dairy are right up there. And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to hear the wine industry funded the ‘red wine is good for you’ study. Not that it’s not true, but you know, if you search long and hard enough for a positive, and choose exactly the right parameters, you can prove just about anything. Even Hitler had his positive characteristics if you choose the right parameters.
My personal stance on it is actually pretty simple. Red wine, like every other form of alcohol, is poison. In its purest form, alcohol will kill you fast. In its more palatable fashionable and tasty form, it will be much slower. But either way it’s not good for you. Sorry, but it’s not. Am I stick in the mud party pooper? Absolutely. For a whole heap of reasons, I haven’t touched a drop of alcohol for, as I write this now, 3 days short of six years. Why? Well, plenty of reasons actually. But mostly because the negatives of drinking any form of alcohol, including red wine, far outweigh any marginal benefits.
I’ve always likened saying, “Red wine is good for you heart,” to saying that, “Jumping off a cliff stimulates the adrenal gland.” In isolation, that may well be true. But step back and look at the bigger picture and it isn’t quite such a positive story.
Red wine is romantic. Fancy people drink red wine and use sophisticated words like ‘tannin’ to describe how it tastes. But at the end of the day, it’s still a form of alcohol. And while I’ll admit I’m no scientist, I know alcohol has been pretty conclusively linked to Arthritis, Cancer, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Heart Disease, Hyperglycemia, Kidney Disease, Liver Disease, Malnutrition, Nervous Disorders, Obesity and various psychological disturbances including depression, anxiety and insomnia. And there’s nothing particularly fancy or sophisticated about any of those things.
But hey, maybe there is a marginal health benefit in there somewhere. But don’t kid yourself, no matter how hard they search, and how much research they do, they’re unlikely to ever find the net effect of drinking red wine is a positive one. If the one good piece of news is the bit you choose to focus on, then fair enough. Perhaps you’re just a positive, optimistic, glass is half full (of red wine) kind of person. And that’s not such a bad thing.
Have an Out of this World Day!
Since taking up running in 2010, Sputnik has completed numerous road marathons including the New York Marathon as well as a number of ultra trail runs including the Tarawera 100km ultra in Rotorua, NZ and the brutal North Face 100 – a 100km trail race through the Blue Mountains in NSW. His practical, useful and usually at least vaguely entertaining advice and ability to make stupid, difficult and stupidly difficult acts of exercise look a tiny bit enjoyable and possibly even fun has already helped numerous people get off their arses. His mission is to do that a bit more. As testament to his Swashbuckling spirit he has eaten fried tarantulas in Cambodia, climbed active volcanos in Indonesia and been married. In November 2012 Sputnik was part of the first group to ever race the 200+km Manaslu Mountain Trail in Nepal and finished in a blaze of glory several days before everyone else – when he was helivac’d off the mountain half way through after almost dying. He’s fine now though and stands by his motto that, “Ordinary is the enemy and must be avoided at all costs.”