Sure, Drinking Wine Can Be Healthy -- But How Much Is Too Much?

woman drinking wineScandal's Olivia Pope -- known as well for "handling" political crises as she is for loving hard on a mega glasses of red -- may be a fictional character, but her obsession with vino echoes the whole country's biggest booze crush right now. Yes, ladies, you know it as well as I: Wine is having a moment. The U.S. is the largest wine-consuming nation in the world. So when a so-called international "alcohol expert" claims that a whole bottle of wine a day is A-OK, people are going to get a little too gleeful.

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Last year, former World Health Organization "alcohol expert" Dr. Kari Poikolainen made headlines when he told The Daily Mail about his analysis of decades of research on the effects of alcohol on the human body and concluded that drinking is only harmful if you have more than a bottle of wine (or four to five pints of beer).

What's more, he said that moderate drinking is better than abstaining. Sure, he admits that heavy drinking is worse than abstaining, but he's all for raising the guidelines for what's considered "recommended daily intake," which is one five-ounce glass of wine for women. And we're still buzzing about this now, because of course we wish doctors were on board with us all pouring ourselves even more Malbec! (Or Chardonnay ... or Cab ... Mmm.)

More from The Stir: Photographic Evidence That Drinking Wine Can Make Any Woman Breathtakingly Beautiful

Hmm, I'm all for challenging the status quo, especially if the science doesn't prove the current recommendations make sense, but a whole bottle of wine? That just CANNOT be right!

Well, turns out, he's not completely wrong. Research by doctors from Harvard Medical School found that moderate drinkers have a lower risk of heart attacks and fatal heart disease than abstainers. And other studies show that people who drink small or moderate amounts of alcohol do have a lower death and illness risk than people who don't drink at all. But once alcohol consumption becomes excessive, your risk for death and diseases like coronary heart disease (CHD) rises big time.

So, is a bottle a day excessive? We asked Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, director of the Alcohol Research Program of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

"It is hard to imagine that anyone would believe how drinking a bottle of wine a day could not be harmful," Kovacs says. "The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as 'a pattern of drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels to 0.08 g/dL. This typically occurs after four drinks for women and five drinks for men -- in about 2 hours.'"

For reference, the average 750 ml. bottle of wine is approximately five drinks for women, which would fall under the definition of "binge drinking." And the Centers for Disease Control warns that over the long-haul, excessive levels of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, digestive problems, a variety of cancers (breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon), learning and memory problems, depression, and anxiety.

Clearly, despite these extremist claims -- and perhaps winos' wildest fantasies -- a bottle a day will NOT keep the doctor away! But hey, the occasional glass may.

What do you make of this recommendation? Would you believe light to moderate drinking is healthier than not drinking at all?

 

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