By Mark Force
There are numerous studies in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that conclude moderate alcohol consumption leads to increased lifespan. A recent paper from the Journal of Study on Alcohol and Drugs headed by Tim Stockwell, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria in Canada and the director of the Center for Addictions Research of BC, questions this conclusion.
Dr. Stockwell, indeed, has discovered a common thread of poor experimental design in his review and meta-analysis of 87 previous studies considering the relationship between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality. It is a brilliant paper.
Dr. Stockwell in summation, “We can’t rule out that alcohol isn’t still preventing heart disease, but it’s balanced by the extent to which it’s causing cancers and other problems. There’s no safe level of drinking.” So, is Dr. Stockwell’s stand right? Is it time to join the teetotalers of the world in an enlightened quest for better health?
No. Dr. Stockwell has extrapolated his conclusions beyond the reach of his research.
Long lifespan alone is a poor measure of a life well lived. There are other and, arguably, more important measures for quality of life. Maintaining mental and physical abilities that allow independent living free of chronic and degenerative diseases is a more inclusive measure for quality of life (increased rectangularization of the survival curve).
Does moderate wine drinking promote this particular measure? Yes, and moderation is the key. Or, as Epicurus taught, “Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”
Too little oxygen is bad and too much oxygen will damage your lungs (pulmonary oxygen toxicity). Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have strong support for lowering your risk for cancers and too much will cause hypothyroidism. Too little zinc will impair immune function and too much zinc will….. impair immune function. Upregulating mitochondrial function increases cellular energy, but, also, increases cellular oxidation that promotes cellular aging and genetic mutation.
The moral – maintaining life is an incredibly complex balance between antagonistic cellular functions.
The most common health related issues that diminish rectangularization of the survival curve are cardiovascular disease (arteriosclerosis, hypertension), type II diabetes (metabolic syndrome), clotting disorders (stroke, thrombophlebitis) cognitive decline, cancer, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass and strength.
Study participants consuming wine regularly and moderately over time have shown lab test changes toward significantly higher HDL/LDL ratio and lower levels of C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker), fibrinogen factor VII, and plasminogen activator inhibitor. This translates to less risk for arterial disease and abnormal blood clotting that could trigger heart attacks, strokes, or thrombophlebitis.
Wine has been shown to be a promotor of nitric oxide (NO) release in the arterial endothelium under the influence of wine polyphenols and NO is associated with improved arterial wall elasticity, decrease arteriosclerosis, and blood pressure regulation. Interestingly, a four week intervention of wine consumption showed improved blood pressure relative to placebo controls.
A study published in March of this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine of normally abstinent adults with type II diabetes divided into a group that drank a daily glass of wine and a group that drank mineral water for two years showed a daily glass of wine improved glucose and lipid profiles.
Alcohol is undoubtedly mildly neurotoxic – alcoholism has long been associated with brain damage – and alcohol abuse is a risk factor for a number of different cancers. So is wine actually a fit for a healthy lifestyle?
Paradoxically, it would seem, wine is neuroprotective, also. Glycation is an inflammatory process promoted by type II diabetes that is strongly associated with dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease, and wine has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation. Wine has also been shown to improve diabetic neuropathy and prevent the development of the abnormal brain proteins (amyloid beta-protein) associated with dementias. The wine polyphenol resveratrol has shown significant protection from hypoxia and chemical toxins of brain neurons.
Resveratrol has been shown to modulate biochemistry involved in multiple stages of carcinogenesis, generally. Wine polyphenols have shown protective effects for breast, colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers, specifically.
Alas, wine won’t help your muscle mass or bone density. Wine is wonderful, but you need exercise, too!