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Top Health Topics of 2018

What caught the attention of health-conscious wine lovers this year? Women's health, teeth, sleep and more…
Drinking wine and other alcohol creates particular risks for women, but also offers a range of benefits.
Photo by: iStock
Drinking wine and other alcohol creates particular risks for women, but also offers a range of benefits.

Lexi Williams
Posted: December 26, 2018

In 2018, a year that brought no shortage of wellness "trends," it's no surprise that the relationship between wine and health was a hot topic. In addition to reports on new scientific research and answers to reader-submitted questions, Wine Spectator took deep dives into a wide range of pertinent wine-and-health subjects. From wine's unique effects on women to the breakdown of polyphenols' benefits, here are our most popular health topics from 2018.

Women and Wine: How Alcohol Affects Female Health

Men and women are obviously different, but did you know that this is true even when it comes to how alcohol affects them? There's a reason why the U.S.D.A. Dietary Guidelines recommend up to two drinks a day for men and up to only one for women: Women have less body water than men, and therefore are more likely to have a higher blood-alcohol content (BAC) than men after drinking the same amounts. Further, estrogen, the primary female sex hormone, suppresses the process that leads to the breakdown of alcohol, another contributor to a higher BAC in women. Wine Spectator rounded up studies that specifically pertained to women, including some areas of concern, such as breast cancer risk and reproductive health questions, as well as benefits, like cardiovascular protection and increased bone density, to help paint a better picture of the complex relationship between alcohol and female health.

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Sleep?

That nightcap seems like a relaxing end to the day, but it might unsettle your night.

About 70 million Americans have some sort of trouble sleeping, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and for many, alcohol can be an accessible, and often appealing, option for relief. But its effects don't end once you shut your eyes. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, it may not be quality rest, as a 2015 study demonstrated. There's also the tricky matter of sleep disorders, such as insomnia and sleep apnea, that come with other factors to consider when thinking about drinking before bed. One of the first rules a wine lover can follow in order to sleep soundly and avoid a foggy mind the following day is to wait a while in between, drinking and sleeping and, as always, drink only in moderation.

What Does Wine Do to Your Teeth?

You can drink wine and still enjoy a healthy smile.

If you've ever been to a wine tasting, you're likely familiar with the most obvious effect of wine on your smile: stained teeth. But while that issue—whether temporary or more permanent—is certainly one to think about, there is a lot more going on that's less visible. Wine Spectator spoke with dental health specialists about the different ways in which wine can affect our oral health—from the breakdown of tooth enamel to potentially helping prevent decay. Of course, we also threw in some tips for dealing with that purple wine-tasting grin.

Is Wine Gluten-Free?

Celiac-disease sufferers need to watch what they eat; but how about what they drink?

As a product of grapes, wine is generally considered a safe beverage for those avoiding gluten—though there are some very specific exceptions. (And don't assume all wine-based drinks are gluten-free.) While many people adopt gluten-free diets for various reasons, for those with celiac disease or an intolerance, it's an absolute necessity to know whether a food or beverage contains any gluten at all. We spoke to experts about the rare cases in which wine might contain trace amounts of gluten, and whether you have to worry about them.

Wine Is Full of Healthy Polyphenols. But What's a Polyphenol?

Polyphenols are found in the pulp, seeds and skins of grapes.

The health-conscious wine drinker may already consider polyphenols to be an added benefit to their beverage of choice, but many people don't know why polyphenols are good for them … or, for that matter, what the word even means! We break down what polyphenols are, list the studied health benefits of many polyphenols found in wine, and even highlight some wines that are believed to be the richest in polyphenols!

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