‘m seated at my kitchen counter with a glass of wine next to me. I feel especially writerly but look especially millennial because the choice color of this afternoon’s poison is nary a mature red nor an intellectual white. Instead, I am drinking summer’s liquid anthem — rosé, which carries forth a pastel shade of salmon pink that slides down the throat tasting like an indigenous flower plucked from a garden in Massachu–wait, no, that’s not right. It slides down the throat dancing like a ballerina, artfully swaying her bod–no, that’s not it either. It slides down the throat like…like…acid. Yes. It slides down the throat like acid.
As I ponder this description, I begin to wonder: Why am I drinking something that slides down my throat like acid? And thus an investigation, born and bred on the internet and based on the moot information it delivers on the effects of wine consumption, ensues.
Time published a story in 2015 that cited an experiment wherein 224 participants were placed on the same Mediterranean diet and asked to drink a 5 oz. glass of water or wine each night for two years. The group that drank wine (whether white or red) reported better sleep quality (this is a side effect I, for one, have never experienced), while those who drank exclusively red wine maintained an increased level of good HDL cholesterol (the kind that indicates a lower risk of heart disease).
Mayo Clinic went so far as to add that resveratrol, an ingredient found in wine, may help prevent blood clots and damage to blood vessels. Late last year, The Washington Post published a still in favor but slightly less rosy take on this theory, acknowledging the implied benefits but addressing other risks that arise, such as “rhythm alteration of the heart” (not that thing where the little man who lives inside of your vascular organ stops doing the sprinkler and starts doing the worm, if you can believe it!).
But then, earlier this year, a new study — probably not sponsored by the state of California or, more specifically, Napa Valley — emerged that included a chilling thought: “Having 10 or more drinks per week was associated with up to two years shorter life expectancy, which equates to losing 15 minutes of life for each unit above the safe amount, the equivalent of smoking a cigarette.” From there, my Google search tab opened the floodgates and so it began.
From Medical News Today, “Even light drinkers are at risk of cancer.” From The Cut, “Having a Glass of Wine Each Day Increases Your Breast Cancer Risk,” and from my bible, Cancer.gov, a fact sheet explicitly drawing the correlation between wine consumption and an increased risk in breast, head and neck, liver, colorectal and esophageal cancers. That one really made me stop short in the blur of a budding sitcom that is my life as a Bad Mom on Maternity Leave.
So what is it, dammit? Who am I supposed to believe, the wine evangelists or the naysayers? And particularly at this unique and merry inflection point — the beginning of summer! — where the wine flows like termites inside a plank of wood.
I’ll admit skepticism when I first read about the benefits of wine consumption. Resveratrol promotes anti-aging and yet, drinking makes me look older (I can count the number of wrinkles I have accrued that are direct descendants of my ancestor, C.H. Ardonnay). Intake promotes heart health, but have you ever tried to exercise the morning after a dinner date with ~Destiny~? It’s LOL. And for whatever antioxidants may or may not be present in the liquid confidence, I am sure if not certain that there are better ways (blueberries, grape skins, peanuts!) to reap those.
Of course, each of the studies that have championed the benefits have also explicitly mentioned that consumption should not exceed a single 5 oz. glass. But when we hear kale is good for you, we milk it, literally, for all that it is worth (see: The Green Juice). When coconut oil becomes a beacon of vitality, we are told to apply it like lotion to every square inch of our bodies, and so when wine becomes an ally, do you really think those who rejoice in the news will stop at one?
Maybe I’m projecting, but the real owner of this heartbreak hotel is the fact that no one, not a single source, has mentioned a thing about rosé being even remotely okay for you. Somebody! Quick! Call Al Roker and tell him it’s over. Summer is dead.
Still confused about which direction to turn (read: how to continue to justify drinking), I hit up Dr. Robin Berzin, the founder of Parsley Health. She said, “A little goes a long way is my slogan with wine.” Did I find this answer satisfying? Absolutely not. Did I respect it nonetheless? I guess so.
“Here are the basics,” she told me. “The resveratrol is good for anti-aging and moderate intake can promote heart health,” but on the flip side, it is “dehydrating, addictive and a toxin to the liver and brain that depletes vitamin B, can trigger anxiety and depression, interrupts quality sleep and thus, in turn, dis-regulates blood sugar and metabolism.”
Wait a shit! But didn’t Time announce the opposite? Said Dr. James O’Keeffe, the physician interviewed in the aforementioned 2015 story, “If you have a glass of red wine with your evening meal tonight, your peak blood sugar, if you measured it an hour later, would be about 30% lower than if you hadn’t had the wine.”
Dr. Berzin goes on. “I recommend taking at least three days off per week from drinking and maxing out at one to two drinks when you do.” The negative side effects tethered to expenditure are cumulative, so the effects of poor sleep and dehydration and nutrient depletion and inflammation happen over time. “While alcohol is cleared from your system in a matter of hours, meaning it’s gone, it can take days for your body to heal from the toxic exposure.” (That exposure being the enzymes that break down into acetaldehyde, a carcinogen.)
“Like cigarettes.” (There’s that grisly comparison again!) “The body can clean up the damage of drinking with minimal exposure, so one hit isn’t what kills you. But in alcohol’s case, the benefits in low-level consumption might be outweighed by the negatives of regular heavy consumption.”
So, can wine be good for you???????????????????????????????????
“Sure!” I wish she had just stopped there. But nooooooo: “In moderation.” Sorry, I fell asleep for a second. “The test is having none for about a month, seeing how you feel, then reintroducing it and seeing how things change in your body, mood and life. If things aren’t so great, then maybe alcohol isn’t for you on a regular basis. If you feel no different, then lucky you!”
Photos by Heidi’s Bridge.