A drink (or two) a day can be beneficial to one’s health. Studies have shown that drinking red wine in moderation lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.
“Men should drink no more than three standard drinks a day; and women, no more than two,” says Mrs Magdalin Cheong, Chief Dietitian of the Dietetic & Food Services at Changi General Hospital.
A standard drink refers to 2/3 of a small can of regular beer (220ml), a glass of wine (100ml) or one nip of spirit (30ml).
To drink or not to drink
Although drinking in moderation can be good for health, Ms Cheong advises non-habitual or social drinkers not to start drinking alcohol regularly for its health benefits.
“For most Asians, drinking is not part of the meal. Hence, when a person starts drinking, it can get out of control and therefore affect one’s health,” says Ms Cheong.
In fact, the nutritional content of beer or wine can be obtained from other more nutritious foods and antioxidants present mainly in fruits and vegetables.
According to Singapore's Health Promotion Board, regular and binge drinking have been linked to obesity, mouth, throat and oesophageal cancer, liver cirrhosis, brain damage and memory loss as well as sexual problems, especially male impotency.
Wine’s nutritional content
Wine contains chemical compounds called natural phenols which are classified as either flavonoids or non-flavonoids.
Flavonoids, which are present in red grapes, have antioxidant properties and help reduce the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and age-related degenerative disease.
Tannins, a type of flavonoids, are found in grape skins, seeds and stems. A natural preservative in wine, tannins are believed to help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Resveratrol, a type of non-flavonoids under the category of stilbenoids, is a naturally occurring antioxidant. It is mostly found in grape skin; red wine has more resveratrol than white wine. Resveratrol is believed to decrease the stickiness of blood platelets and help blood vessels remain open and flexible thereby reducing high blood pressure.
Besides natural phenols, wine also contains polyphenols which are antioxidants. Polyphenols are believed to lower total cholesterol and blood pressure, lessen the risk of cancer, and stimulate the immune system. They also have anti-bacterial properties.
Beer’s nutritional content
Beer contains mainly alcohol with 7kcal energy per gram. The beverage also has various types of vitamin B, such as vitamin B6, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, and vitamin B9 or folate, which are derived from the yeast used during the beer production process.
Studies show benefits of drinking alcohol in moderation
In 2011, researchers from the Institute for Population and Public Health at the University of Calgary, Canada showed that there was a 14 to 25 per cent reduction in heart disease in moderate drinkers compared with those who had never consumed alcohol.
In particular, according to a study published in the American Medical Journal in 2008, it was found that persons who only drank wine showed the most benefit, having the biggest reduction in cardiovascular events compared with non-drinkers, heavy drinkers or those who drank other types of alcohol.
Studies have also shown that consuming three to six glasses of wine per week can lower the risk of Helicobacter pylori infection (associated with stomach ulcers) by 11 per cent compared to those who do not drink. Red wine, which has antibacterial agents, is also believed to lower the risk of general infection by 6 per cent.
Other health benefits
Other studies have found health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption related to anti-ageing, lowering the risk of obesity and improving cognitive function.