1-2 Glasses of Red Wine Per Day Is Healthy.. .. Except perhaps for Indians!

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Gham is kadar mila ki ghabra ke pee gaye,

Khushi thodi si mili to mila ke pee gaye,
Yun to naa thi janam se peene ki aadat,
Sharab ko tanha dekha to taras khaa ke pee gaye.

Encountered pain/grief to such extent that I got stressed and imbibed,

Encountered a little happiness, I mixed it a little and imbibed

Its not that I had developed a drinking habit since I was born..

Its just that the wine/alcohol looked so lonely, that I took pity on it and imbibed!

(Thanks to Mukesh Kacker for the translation)

The Good News

We hear about the “heart healthy” effects of light drinking, especially when it comes to red wine. Among researchers and the medical community, this is called the J curve  or the hockey stick effect of alcohol on heart and diabetic health , whereby light drinkers (one large peg or a glass of wine per day) have lower risk than teetotalers, but alcohol becomes toxic and unhealthy very fast beyond  1-2 drinks  per day.

 

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 7.46.45 PMSOURCE: Corrao et al. 2000.

Here’s the benefits of light alcohol consumption vs. dangers of heavy alcohol consumption for non-Indians at a glance:

Health Benefits of light alcohol consumption Health Risks of heavy alcohol consumption
Reduces risk of: Increases the risk of:
Heart disease Irregular heart beat, weakening of heart muscle
Stroke Stroke
Certain cancers including prostate Mouth, throat, voice box, liver, stomach and breast cancer
Type 2 Diabetes Worsens diabetes related disease like nerve and eye damage
Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease Alcohol related dementia among young and middle aged people
High blood pressure in women(while it increased the risk in men) High blood pressure in both men and women
Weakened immune system
Depleted vitamin levels especially B vitamins (folate)
Alcoholic liver disease

The Bad News for Indians/South Asians

Before you pour a drink to toast the good news, here’s a damper-if you are Indian or South Asian (those with roots in the Indian subcontinent ) – A 2010 study involving 4465 Indian adult men revealed that even light and moderate drinking is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease. Well, unfortunately most of the studies on effects of alcohol were conducted on Europeans or the ‘Western population’s. This is the perfect example of the saying ‘one man’s food is another man’s poison”!  

Light consumption of alcohol may be beneficial for the Western world, but sadly for Indians/ South Asians, African American, native Americans even light consumption has the opposite effect. Among these populations, teetotalers (non-drinkers) seem to have the maximum benefits. Higher alcohol consumption was associated with an even higher risk. 

Blame it on our Genes?

Being Indian/South Asian means that you already are at a higher risk for heart disease as well as diabetes. Small wonder that India has the dubious distinction of having the most number of diabetics and people with heart disease in the world!

Add to this the fact that Indians don’t seem to metabolize alcohol like their western counterparts, poor dietary choices and lack of physical activity which could be increasing your chances of getting heart diseases at younger ages. Indians living in America are known to have a 4 fold higher rates of heart disease compared to Americans. While the rates of heart disease have come down in the West, it has doubled both in India and among Indians living outside India.

Indians and Alcohol

Two different studies conducted on Indians have shown that even light to moderate drinking has no cardioprotective effect on Indians. Infact one study showed a possible harm from alcohol on the cardiac risk for Indians. With consumption of alcohol becoming popular, India is alarmingly becoming the fastest growing  market for hard liquor which is a worrying trend.

To Drink or Not to Drink?

Good question-if you don’t drink, then all the more reason (and health benefits) for not starting. If you do drink, then try to do so in moderation (1 drinks/day or less) in case you can’t completely avoid drinking.

How much is One drink?

Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 ml)

Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355ml)

Malt Liquor= 8 fluid ounces (236 ml)

Distilled spirits= 1 shot or 1.5 fluid ounces (44ml)

If you have an option to choose your alcohol -then choose red wine. That’s because of the added benefits of the antioxidants resveratrol and flavonoids from the skin of the grapes used to make red wine. These have been credited with reducing inflammation, LDL cholesterol, insulin resistance, protecting the blood vessels in the heart and protecting against type 2 diabetes. But before you let your ‘spirits’ soar- you should know that you probably can get the same benefits by drinking a glass of red or purple grape juice!

That being said, benefits cannot be isolated to one particular food or drink-you need to make a lifestyle change to see the benefits. The evil of foods that do not work for you, sedentary lifestyle and stress cannot  be magically wiped out or reversed by any food/drink. 

Avoid the Nutritional Whitewash. Understand your unique metabolism. Here are your choices:

You can set up a screening and lifestyle phone consult at

These results will help you determine the best nutritional regimen YOU need to follow to manage your weight and lower your health risk. There is increasing evidence that mapping/personalizing your nutrition to your metabolic markers is key to counteracting these chronic conditions in Indians and South Asians. Despite your genetic susceptibility, your health can still benefit dramatically from lifestyle changes.

Stay Informed. Stay Healthy!

Editing Support: Sweta Uchil-Purohit

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