By Pam Blume
Christian Action League
November 1, 2019
The proliferation of vineyards, wineries and wine bars in North Carolina reveals our growing affinity for the liquid version of the fruit of the vine. Wine is considered the “good” alcohol because of the health benefits associated with it. But recent studies have called into question that assumption.
What researchers and medical professionals now call “The Heart Health Myth” originated in the late 1980s with the phenomenon known as the “French Paradox.” The discrepancy between the affinity of the French for a diet high in saturated fats and their low rate of heart disease, combined with the consumption of wine, led to the theory that the wine must be the protective agent.
According to an article in the Harvard Heart newsletter entitled “Is Red Wine Actually Good for Your Heart?” editor June Corliss states, “This theory helped spur the discovery of a host of beneficial plant compounds known as polyphenols. Found in red and purple grape skins (as well as many other fruits, vegetables, and nuts), polyphenols theoretically explain wine’s heart-protecting properties. Another argument stems from the fact that the Mediterranean diet, an eating pattern shown to ward off heart attacks and strokes, features red wine.”
Polypenols have been proven to have positive health benefits, but research has shown that the amount of wine needed to get enough polyphenols, such as the resveratrol found in red grapes, would be toxic and cause alcohol poisoning.
The article goes on to state that Dr. Kenneth Mukamal, an internist at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, says that the evidence for red wine as lowering heart disease is pretty weak and has not shown cause and effect. There have been no long-term, randomized trials on the health effects of alcohol. He also states that Japan has a lower heart disease rate than France and red wine consumption is much lower there.
The French have also been alluded to as proof that wide-spread moderate drinking is not harmful and their particular culture has no problem with over-indulgence. In 2008, Time magazine reported, “In decrying the excessive alcohol consumption of their compatriots, American and British health experts have long pointed to France with admiration. Here, they said, was a society that masters moderate drinking. In France, the argument went, libation is just a small part of the festival of life, not the mind-altering prerequisite for a good time. The French don’t wink, like the English do, at double-fisted drinking; they scorn people who lose control and get drunk in public. It’s a neat argument. But it sounds a little Pollyannaish now that France itself is grappling with wide-spread binge-drinking among its youth. Worse still, fully half of 17 year olds reported having been drunk at least once during the previous month.”
Ten years later, a study reveals that in France “one in every two men between the age of 25 and 64 is an excessive drinker.”
Not only has wine not been proven to be the protector of the heart we thought it was, alcohol in general has been connected with an increased risk of certain cancers. The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) released a statement in 2017 on the relationship between alcohol and cancer, especially head and neck cancers, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colon cancer.
Dr. Noelle LoConte, a medical oncologist at the University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center, was the lead author on the ASCO statement. In a podcast with Cancer.Net, she said that, “5.5% of new cancer occurrences across the globe and 20% of all cancer deaths worldwide are thought to be attributable to alcohol use and so this is a potentially modifiable risk factor that we could target with interventions at the policy level and then at the individual level. …The most important message I think from this statement for patients is that the more a person drinks and for the longer period of time, the greater the risk of developing cancer, especially head and neck cancers. …we see an increased risk (of breast cancer) with even just one drink a day.”
The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines one drink as 5 ounces of wine.
We are living in a time when it is alleged that only the backwards, the ignorant, and the uneducated believe in abstinence. This is not true and the science of today is bearing out what were the claims of the most prominent of citizens during the years leading up to Prohibition.
In his scholarly book, “Alcohol: Abstinence in an Age of Indulgence,” Dr. Peter Lumpkins has written: “University presidents, seminary professors, medical professionals, linguists, Classics scholars alike argued tirelessly in professional journals, books, pamphlets, and speeches not only the personal virtue of abstaining from intoxicating beverages but also the public vice of manufacturing, distributing, selling, and consuming alcoholic beverages for social and recreational purposes.”
Pam Blume is a member of the Christian Action League’s Board of Directors. She is the wife of the former editor of the Biblical Recorder, Allan Blume. Although she lives in Cary, North Carolina, she originally hails from Virginia. Pam has been a graphic designer for Samaritan’s Purse, and served as a Trustee for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. She has also served as a Board Member of the Boone Crisis Pregnancy Center in Boone, North Carolina.