Although often cited for its associated health benefits, drinking wine can also have some negative side effects. In a positive light, wine has been linked to helping increase HDL blood cholesterol and preventing bad cholesterol from forming. Additionally there is a theory that resveratrol, a flavonoid found in grapes, may boost the body's clot dissolving enzyme. When blood clots, there is a decrease in blood flow which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Tannins, another phytonutrient in the wine, may also inhibit blood clotting. Additionally, it has been linked to increased appetite, which can support increased food consumption among vulnerable populations like older adults.
However, drinking is associated with an increased risk for multiple health problems including high blood pressure, liver cirrhosis, allergic reactions, several types of cancer, sleep deficiency, breast cancer, brain damage, heart damage and inflamed pancreas, as well as increased rate of general injuries, violence and death.
1. Sleep Deficiency
Many people feel a bit drowsy when consuming wine. This happens because alcohol is not digested but moves directly through the stomach lining and wall of the small intestine into the bloodstream. Once alcohol gets into the bloodstream, it goes into every cell of the body, depressing cellular activity. But this drowsy feeling is short-lived and one or more drinks before bedtime can result in a lighter sleep versus deeper, more restful sleep. Staying physically active and reducing your alcohol consumption can help you get better sleep.
For some people, one glass of wine can turn into a whole bottle. One 5 ounce glass of dry wine has on average about 100 calories. A 12 ounce wine cooler is higher with about 180 calories on average. But some fortified wines and dessert wines containing distilled spirits have even more calories. So while one to two glasses of wine at about 200 calories can fit into your daily caloric goals, keep in mind that drinking is linked to increased consumption of food and a decreased rate of exercise. Half a bottle of wine everyday over a week period adds up to 1,750 of mostly nutrient-free calories.
3. Heart Disease
Moderation is important. Up to one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men may provide the associated health benefits, like lowering risk for heart disease. But when drinking habits become higher, you can put yourself at risk of heart disease. Too much alcohol intake can lead to a rise in blood pressure, result in heart failure or lead to a stroke. Additionally, high intake can result in increased triglycerides and an irregular heartbeat. For those really interested in a healthy heart, focusing on eating well and exercising has been shown to improve heart health at higher rates than the addition of a glass of wine daily.
Although the potential harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy, such as birth defects or low birth weights, are well known, less well-known are the effects on males. For men, excessive alcohol intake can result in lowered testosterone levels, slowed motility of the sperm and erectile dysfunction. So it is important for both men and women who are attempting to conceive to reduce or even stop their intake of alcohol.
Excessive alcohol intake, including wine, can lead to acute pancreatitis. If you already have chronic pancreatitis, it can worsen the symptoms. An article in the July 2007 Journal of Pancreatology states "Although the association between alcohol consumption and pancreatitis has been recognized for over 100 years, it remains still unclear why some alcoholics develop pancreatitis and some do not. Surprisingly little data are available about alcohol amounts, drinking patterns, type of alcohol consumed and other habits such as dietary habits or smoking in respect to pancreatitis preceding the attack of acute pancreatitis or the time of the diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis." But reducing or abstaining from alcohol may prohibit recurrent acute pancreatitis and reduce the amount of pain caused during chronic pancreatitis.
Emily DeLacey MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and currently working in Jamaica as a HIV/ AIDS Prevention Specialist. She attended Central Washington University for her Bachelor's Degree in Science and Dietetics and continued on after her internship to Kent State University for her Master's Degree in Science and Nutrition, with a focus on public health and advocacy. She served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Malawi 2012-2014 working as a Community Health Advisor in a rural village, immersing in the joys of life without electricity or running water. She has been to 20+ countries and 47 of the 50 states in the US. Traveling, adventuring and experiencing new cultures has made her a passionate advocate for the equality of nutrition and wellness for all people.