Oenophilia: Benefits and Risks of Your Love for Wine

red wine

red wineThe perfect glass of wine for the perfect meal, perfect setting, or less-than-perfect day. For many people, there’s a wine for everything, and this love of wine is often justified by a handful of studies that say it is good for you. But at what point do the health risks of alcohol outweigh the health benefits of drinking wine? As with so many consumables, there is a fine line, and moderation is key.

It’s known as oenophilia, the love of wine. Wikipedia defines the term as a “disciplined devotion to wine;” others say oenophiliacs are connoisseur. In other words, an oenophilia is someone who knows what sort of glass is best for what type of wine, basic food and wine pairings, and may even have some ideas on what regions of which countries are best for Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon. In other words, these aren’t your average wine-in-a-jug drinkers.

Dr. Joel Kahn, a clinical professor of medicine at Wayne State University of Medicine, and Director of Cardiac Wellness at Michigan Healthcare Professionals, says that the benefits of drinking wine rest in the “sweet spot” of a U-shaped curve, the curve that exists in so many health measurements. Too little means you won’t reap the benefits, but too much means you are putting yourself at risk.

One analysis that looked at data on over 1 million people, found that the “sweet spot” was at one to two drinks for women and two to four per men. At these levels, the study found, participants reaped the most benefits.

Read: 4 Health-Protective Qualities of Resveratrol

But what constitutes “one drink”? It may be less than you think. Most studies that analyze the benefits or risks of drinking use a standard 5 ounce serving of wine as a single “drink”. Your favorite wine glass–you know, the one that’s as big as your face—that one likely holds twice as much.

“Light to moderate” drinking, which equates to one of these glasses a day for women and two for men, is associated with lower death rates, and also lower rates of diabetes, heart failure, strokes, and cardiovascular deaths, according to Dr. Kahn.

Another study found that up to seven drinks per week in women and 14 in men were associated with more than a 30% drop in mortality. These men and women weren’t likely throwing back their weekly allowance of alcohol in a single sitting, but drinking moderately throughout the week.

“There is no doubt that the U-shaped curve of drinking for health is also a slippery slope that can lead to abuse,” said Dr. Kahn for MindBodyGreen.  “The American Heart Association advises people not to start a drinking habit for health gains. Nonetheless, for those that enjoy an alcoholic drink, a daily 5-ounce glass or red wine (or two) has scientific support.”

When it comes down to it, health is important, but so are the simple enjoyments of life.