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Why is moderation so important when drinking wine?

Douglas De Jesus
Posted: July 16, 2015

Q: You tout moderate drinking all the time. Why such a big deal?

A: The old adage “everything in moderation” might be boring advice, but it's good advice. When it comes to getting benefits from the healthy compounds in wine—which have been touted to help with conditions ranging from coronary disease to high blood sugar—the amount of wine in question seems to be the key.

Wine is far from a "the more the better" component in your diet. Numerous medical studies have indicated that certain health risks are lowered with light to moderate drinking but may increase with heavier drinking, such as some forms of cancer, memory impairment and dementia and diabetes. Overall, moderate drinking, and the lifestyle associated with responsible consumption, has been linked to longer life, while heavy drinking is connected to higher rates of all-cause mortality.

The advice to limit the number of drinks per day is especially relevant for women, and not just because alcohol has been linked to a higher risk of breast cancer. Due to body-mass index and other factors, women's threshold for "too much" is lower than it is for men.

For example, in a study just published in the journal Hypertension in July 2015, researchers in Australia conducted a three-month trial of 24 women, aged 24 to 49, with normal blood pressure, dividing them into two groups. During one month they drank either 2 or 3 glasses of wine per evening, another month only 1 glass either four days a week or every evening, and the last month they drank de-alcoholized wine. The researchers concluded that while lower alcohol consumption didn't have negative effects for healthy premenopausal women, drinking 2 to 3 glasses of red wine per day could raise blood pressure enough to increase the risk for hypertension.

The best bet for everyone is to stay within the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks a day for men.

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