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Alcohol and the Mediterranean Diet
Episode 2112th October 2022 • Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson • Terry Simpson
00:00:00 00:05:11

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Alcohol and the Mediterranean Diet

Alcohol consumption is controversial.  No one disputes that excess alcohol consumption leads to dire consequences. But what about moderate alcohol consumption? Can we define moderate alcohol consumption? Is there a safe and therapeutic level of alcohol consumption?

Alcohol is a component of the Mediterranean Diet. However, the consumption is limited to 10 ounces of red wine for men, which translates to 14 grams of alcohol. Half that amount for women. In a number of articles, this amount of alcohol is beneficial.

Bias from Authors

Confirmation bias is ingrained in all humans.  Treatment programs for alcohol addiction teach that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.  Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and other organized religions have taboos regarding alcohol consumption. Finally, consumers of alcohol will be biased against abstinence.

Components of Wine

In their article, Wine, Polypenols and Mediterranean Diet, the authors note that one can get polyphenols from other sources in the diet, and thus the alcohol may be unnecessary.  They conclude that moderate consumption is likely an important component of a mechanistic as well as social norm.

Dose Dependent Effects of Polyphenols on the Body

  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Dose-dependent reduction of LDL-C
  • Increase HDL-C and decrease triglycerides in patients with diabetes
  • Reduction of Blood Pressure
  • Increase production of nitric oxide (NO), which increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure
  • Improve LDL/HDL ratio
  • Resveratrol inhibition of pro-inflammatory agents
  • lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Resveratrol improves glucose homeostasis
  • Modulate gut microbiota
  • Improvement in blood vessel wall function (endothelial function)
  • Reduction of drugs in diabetic patients

Mechanistic vs Holistic

The issue with the Mediterranean Diet is always those who approach from a mechanistic view versus those who approach nutrition and lifestyle from a holistic view. The original data from the Mediterranean Diet came from the Seven Countries Study. This was a holistic examination, not only of their diet but also their lifestyle.

Alcohol Toxicity is in the Dose

A bit of wine is good, a lot of wine is not.

If you look at every improvement in human physiology with alcohol listed above, the opposite effect happens when the dose is beyond about 50 grams of alcohol.


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