Most diet plans forbid alcohol. Even standard Paleo discourages it (oops). I am of the opinion, however, that one must live life to the fullest, adopting a diet protocol sustainably enjoyable. Is there a way to have your drink and drink it too? Yes! I regularly consume alcohol in the form of red wine, a habit I actually developed after going Paleo. I am also at my thinnest, with healthy biomarkers. Studies consistently link moderate alcohol consumption to longevity and health, even more so than teetotalers! Drink on!
There are a myriad of benefits associated with alcohol consumption. For starters, moderate alcohol consumption is linked to increased lifespan. It improves insulin sensitivity and discourages insulin resistance, particularly in women. It protects the heart from cardiovascular disease and is preventative against metabolic syndrome (again, particularly in women), positively affecting blood lipids and waist circumference. It is preventative against rheumatoid arthritis, and may be preventative against neurological diseases such as Alzheimer's and stroke. Mentally, moderate alcohol consumption can positively effect stress and depression. As for my personal favorite, alcohol has been shown to be protective against the common cold!
Alcohol and Fat Gain
Curious about those stiffer drinks going to your waistline? Check out my discussion on the science of alcohol metabolism: Can You Have You Drink And Drink It Too?
Why Red Wine?
While moderate alcohol consumption boosts a myriad of benefits, red wine in particular increases the healthy effects. One study analyzing different alcoholic drinks and longevity found that wine most strongly correlated to longer lifespan and decreased heart disease, increasing average life expectancy by 5 years. 70% of the wine consumed in the data was red wine. In fact, studies on dealcoholized red (but not white) wine confirm its cardiovascular benefits.
Red wine contains phenolic acids and polyphenols. The most famous of these is resveratrol, a polyphenol found within the grape skin. The amount of resveratrol varies from wine to wine and can be relatively low, a possible explanation for why moderate consumption of wine is more beneficial than light consumption or complete abstinence.
Resveratrol and Heart Health
Studies have shown resveratrol may protect the heart by minimizing oxidative stress, hypertension, heart failure, cardiomyopathy, atherosclerosis, diabetes, obesity, and other cardiac dysfunctions. It supports heart health by encouraging autophagy in heart-related processes, and activation of an anti-inflammatory protein in the heart called Sirtuin 1.
Resveratrol and Anti-Aging
Like calorie restriction, resveratrol is heralded for its anti-aging effects, altering metabolic pathways to improve insulin sensitivity. It also activates multiple longevity genes (with fancy names like SIRT and FOX01), prevents age-related cardiovascular decline, and extends lifespan in general.
Resveratrol and "Exercise"
This one may be my favorite! Reserveratrol may act as an exercise mimetic, while also increasing endurance! Studies have shown it may precent muscle wasting in sedentary individuals (thank NASA for that one), while a similar polyphenol found in red wine called piceatannol may discourage fat cell formation!
Of course, moderation is key. I do not advocate heavy drinking, and by no means want to infer that alcohol is important for health or on par with nutritious whole foods. Rather, I just think alcohol can have a healthy place in one's life, supporting both good times and vitality! For wine, pay attention to winemaking methods and additives, and choose organic and sustainable when possible. (Check out my reviews of affordable organic wine options!) And if you're more of a hard alcohol fan, consider looking into spirits made with the liver-protective NTX compound!