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October 27, 2010

The Grape Escape: How much wine is too much?

For all of us who enjoy a taste of wine now and again, the modern hypothesis that moderate wine consumption is good for heart health and longevity comes as excellent news.

But how much is enough? Wine, like all alcoholic beverages, can be a blessing or a curse. A little makes good medicine, but more may not be better. Over-consumption poses an immediate hazard if you drive while drunk, and a long-term threat to those who drink too much too often.

As you might expect, authorities don’t fully agree, but no reputable authority recommends drinking more than a half-bottle per day (about 2½ glasses), and many would say that’s still too much. Moreover, you can’t save it up. Regular moderate consumption, with meals, is much wiser than occasional massive weekend overindulgence separated by dry spells.

Too, like it or not, most men can safely consume a little more than most women, not only because of average size but differences in metabolism.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, long opposed to all alcohol consumption, nowadays accepts some health benefits of wine in its revised “Dietary Guidelines for Americans.” Surrounding its advice with a sturdy barricade of caveats, what-ifs and gotchas, the agency conceded that moderate drinking may lower risk for coronary heart disease in older people, men over 45 and women over 55. It defines “moderation” as one (5-ounce) drink of wine per day for women and two drinks per day at most for men.

The nonprofit American Wine Alliance for Research and Education is more generous, discerning fairly wide reference to the following parameters: one to two drinks per day for women, and two to three drinks per day for men.

That’s good enough for me. Here’s to your health!