This is likely to be the least favorite of all the articles I’ve written. But here at RnR we share the scientific information and you get to decide what to do with it. So here it goes:
This is the hard truth – Alcohol, in any form is an intoxicating, addictive, carcinogenic, neurotoxin and drug; not a therapeutic agent. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s look at some of the details.
Yes, there are doctors who will tell you red wine in “moderation” is “healthy.” I won’t get into my opinion that “moderation” just means “hit yourself with a smaller hammer” or what I think of doctors giving bad nutrition advice because in this case it doesn’t matter. Doctors say that because there are studies that have gotten “J-curve” results. That means that less death and illness were associated with drinking “some” red wine than when drinking none. You might think, “case closed.” But no. Looking more carefully at these studies it was discovered that the researches put people who never drank (teetotalers) in the same group with people who gave up drinking for health reasons. This is like calling someone who quit smoking because they have lung cancer a “non-smoker” and determining the risks/benefits of smoking based on that person. Three-quarters of drinking studies do this. That is plenty to skew the curve.
When previous drinkers are removed from the non-drinkers data, you get exactly what you’d expect, a dose-response line. That means less drinking, less risk; more drinking more risk. No hint of “moderate drinking is good for you.”
Alcohol in all forms, red wine included, creates a carcinogen as soon as it enters your mouth. Even if you spit it out, the carcinogen (agent that causes cells to replicate incorrectly) is already there. This is also true for mouthwash with alcohol in it.
Alcohol must be metabolized by the liver – that’s where toxins go to get removed. Can it handle it in small amounts? Sure. Is it ideal to make it do so? Probably not.
There is no such thing as the “French paradox.” The French are just a few years behind Americans in their eating high fat, sugar and salt foods on a regular basis so the diseases haven’t caught up yet. But they’re coming – sadly.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t healthy because of the wine (or the fish. But that’s a different conversation.) It’s healthier than the Standard American Diet (SAD) because it is mostly made up of plant foods.
Red wine is empty calories and there is no “balance of harms.” All that said, if you’re going to choose to drink, red wine is the least bad thing you can choose. But don’t drink it because you think it’s health promoting. It’s not. Eat the grapes instead. They are actually really good for you.
Whenever we give a presentation that includes this topic we are always asked, “Do you drink?” As of right now, we will sometimes share a drink together or with friends. It is certainly far less than it once was. And if I (Robyn) had to guess I would say at some point in the future we will stop. As competitive athletes neither of us drank in our 20s. But it had become part of our lifestyle to have a drink or two a couple of times a week before we set out on this health journey. As we say with many things, the more we know the more we make little changes that add up to big changes when you look at them all together.
Having an adult beverage is a personal choice and we of all people would never condemn someone for choosing to do so. But being able to make those choices with your eyes wide open – that is empowerment.
Only you can say what is right for you. If you would like professional assistance, we are happy to provide our expertise through the community page here on the website (just become a member and ask away) or via one:one coaching.
PS – Those of you in the path of hurricane Florence, please be safe.
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.