Consuming beverages containing alcohol is part of the regular routine of an estimated 2.3 billion people globally according to a recent report by the World Health Organization. Using data compiled through 2016 WHO notes that consumption of alcohol is trending upward, particularly in Southeast Asia and is likely to continue for at least a decade as economies in the region improve.

The problem is that as consumption increases so do health problems related to it including deaths through injuries, mental health problems and diseases resulting in cancer and stroke. Excessive drinking, meaning more than daily consumption of two glasses of wine, one large bottle of beer or two shots of distilled spirits, is a factor in the premature deaths of some 3 million people annually worldwide.

Estimates derived from sales figures available from producers are that about 50% of global consumption is in the form of distilled spirits, 35% as beer and 12% as wine. In Thailand the figures are liquor and beer constitute about 90% of consumption while wine is at 4% and the balance in either case from unlicensed products. WHO concludes that governments should make greater efforts to educate people about the potential lethal effects of alcohol consumption with particular emphasis on high school age students which is when most start drinking.

While this report isn’t good news for those prone to excessive drinking, or most anything done to excess, it is worth noting that numerous other studies have revealed that moderate intake of wine can be beneficial to healthy individuals. In the 1990’s doctors at Bordeaux University concluded that the comparatively low rate of cardiovascular disease among the French compared to Americans, both of whom consumed high levels of saturated fats in their meals, was the regular drinking of red wine by the French.

This French Paradox, as it became known, was the result of an antioxidant called resveratrol in the skins and seeds of grapes made into red wines. Resveratrol seemed to halt or at least diminish the effects of degenerative diseases. A further study at Harvard showed that high calorie diets accompanied by high resveratrol intake in mice resulted in lower weight, fewer cardiovascular issues and longer life. In 2009 a study at University of Texas Medical Center revealed that higher resveratrol intake helped lower patient’s blood sugar levels.

Questions remain about the quantity of resveratrol required to reduce or eliminate degeneration of vital organs but the relatively small amounts in two daily glasses of red wine seems to have added to the longevity of the French. International awareness of the adverse effects of saturated fats in daily diets has also improved the health of many so along with reducing a few grains of salt on your food enjoy a couple of glasses of wine with your evening meal! 

Written by: R. James Mullen