a glass of red wine
A glass of red wine | via Photl.com

You had to live in a cave not to get the message that drinking wine in moderation is good for your heart, good for your HDL (good cholesterol) levels, and good for the soul. In fact, its salutary effect on the heart and soul is mentioned in Proverbs of the Old Testament (“Wine makes the heart of Man rejoice”, or something like that).

But the ancients also knew that drinking had to be done in moderation. The classical Greeks used to have “symposia” or dinner parties, in which the guests would recline on beds (“triclinium”) placed around the room, drink wine, and discuss philosophical and political issues. After the discussion, a gastronomical feast would be served that could last into the wee hours of the night. How could they talk philosophy after drinking wine? It was diluted 3:1 with water; drinking undiluted wine was considered déclassé. The Bible also frowns on excessive or undiluted wine drinking. Wine production is first mentioned in the book of Genesis: “Noah, who was the first tiller of the soil, planted a vineyard. He drank so much of the wine that he became drunk and lay naked inside his tent.” (Genesis, 9. 20-21.)


New evidence

People at risk for coronary heart disease are often at risk for nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Not surprisingly, people with metabolic syndrome often progress to NAFLD. Researchers at UC San Diego investigated whether modest wine consumption is associated with decreased prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, evaluating participants from the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The participants reported either no alcohol consumption or preferentially drinking wine with total alcohol consumption up to 10 g per day (1 glass of wine). A total of 7,211 nondrinkers and 945 modest wine drinkers comprised the study sample.

The team identified suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in 3% of nondrinkers and 0.4% of modest wine drinkers.

This is a striking difference indeed, and given the size of study population, it is not only statistically significant—it is highly persuasive as well.


What does it mean in “real life”?

Quite a bit. First, it is an independent corroboration of the repeated observation that drinking a moderate amount of wine is cardioprotective.

Second, it may sound heretical, but given the effect of moderate amounts of wine on the heart, on HDL levels, and now on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, it raises the need to study the possible role of moderate drinking in the management of metabolic syndrome. I know I am going to get hate mail for that, but doesn’t a daily glass of wine beat daily medications?


If a little is good, why not more?

Here we are on solid empirical grounds. There is plenty of clinical evidence that excessive drinking (4 drinks or more a day) results in heart disease and alcoholic fatty liver disease (AFLD). As a bonus, throw in increased risks of certain cancers and you’ve got a deadly combination.

Going back to the ancients again, I think it was Aristotle who said in his Golden Rule: “Everything in moderation. Nothing to excess.”

So heed Aristotle’s wisdom and go get yourself a glass of wine. But don’t overdo it!

Le’Chaim (to life)!

Dov Michaeli, MD, PhD
Dov Michaeli, MD, PhD loves to write about the brain and human behavior as well as translate complicated basic science concepts into entertainment for the rest of us. He was a professor at the University of California San Francisco before leaving to enter the world of biotech. He served as the Chief Medical Officer of biotech companies, including Aphton Corporation. He also founded and served as the CEO of Madah Medica, an early stage biotech company developing products to improve post-surgical pain control. He is now retired and enjoys working out, following the stock market, travelling the world, and, of course, writing for TDWI.


  1. I am sure once the research is done there will be many positive effects apparent with the moderate use of marijuana. I have friends that use marijuana for insomnia, anxiety, headaches, low grade pain, etc. Conscious use is the key to moderation. Conscious use is important in food, sex, anger, and a variety of other behaviors. Keep up the good work Dov.

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