Interesting one this! There have been quite a few attempts to show that a small amount of wine a day may improve your heart health. And some studies have appeared to show this. Which has got many people excited as they would love to believe that wine might be good for you.
But… (you knew that was coming…) there are problems with the claim that wine (or any alcoholic drink for that matter) is good for you.
Is it the wine or something else?
The first problem is the type of studies that have looked at this. They are called observational studies. They are exactly what they sound like – researchers observe how much wine someone drinks (or reports that they drink) and then what happens to them in terms of their heart health. They tend to see that those who report that they drink a little wine have better heart health. So, that means a little wine is good for you then doesn’t it?
Well, unfortunately, although that is one explanation, this type of study has no way to be sure if there is a causal link between the wine and the heart health. For example, it could be that people who only drink a little wine also tend to have smaller portions of food, eat a different diet, exercise more etc etc. Any of these things may be the reason why heart health seems to be better rather than it being the wine.
The J-shaped curve
The second problem is that the studies which have appeared to show some benefit from drinking a little wine had a ‘J-shaped curve’ – that means your heart health was worse if you drank no alcohol, improved a bit if you drank a little, and then got worse again as you drank more. However, people who drink no alcohol at all are more likely to suffer from other physical and mental health conditions… and it may be this which is causing the worse health in the teetotal group. On the surface it appears that drinking a little wine might improve your health, when in fact it is actually just that teetotallers are more likely to be unwell in the first place.
So… is a little bit of wine good for your health? The honest answer has to be that we don’t know.