Four myths about wine and health.

Do you want to know the truth behind many statements that people believe but are completely false?

We constantly hear or read opinions about wine and health that are widely held but completely wrong. In this article we explain, with scientific facts, the truth about these urban legends

FALSE: Alcohol kills brain cells.

Just because you feel a little dizzy after a couple of too many drinks, it does not mean that thousands of brain cells are dying, as many people mistakenly believe.

Ethanol (the predominant type of alcohol in beverages such as wine, beer and distilled beverages, among others) has the ability to damage cells, but the human body has ways to avoid it and stop its destruction.

Generally, what is experienced after drinking are short-term symptoms, which will go away once the alcohol is eliminated from your system.

However, if you drink excessively and continuously over time, damage can appear in the dendrites, which are extensions of nerve cells that carry messages between neurons. While this effect of alcohol, which was discovered in 1999 by scientist Roberta Pentney, can alter the structure of a neuron, it does not totally destroy cells and is thought to be mostly reversible.

In this sense, it should be noted that alcoholism or excessive consumption (exceeding one or two drinks a day), as well as exposure to alcohol during critical periods of development (such as pregnancy or adolescence) can cause damage durable. Specifically, heavy drinkers are at risk of developing a neurological disorder called Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, a chronic memory disorder caused by a deficiency of vitamin B1.

However, there is no study showing that moderate wine consumption causes brain damage, in fact recent studies have pointed to the possible benefits of moderate wine consumption for brain health. As with most health and eating issues in life, moderation seems to be the key.

FALSE: White wine is not healthy, red wine is

Red wine tends to get all the attention and praise when it comes to health benefits, mainly thanks to its polyphenolic content. Polyphenols such as resveratrol, quercetin, and ellagic acid are found in the skins of grapes and are therefore more abundant in red wine than white. But although these compounds have beneficial properties, they are not the only elements in wine that have potential to improve health.

Whether red wine or white wine is "healthier" for a person depends on which aspects of health you focus on. A 2015 study, published in Annals of Internal Medicine, showed that while red wine drinkers enjoyed higher levels of HDL cholesterol (the good kind), white wine drinkers enjoyed better blood sugar control and therefore could better prevent diabetes than red wine.

Another study also from 2015, carried out by the University of Turin and the Versilia Hospital in Tuscany, concluded that white wine is also good for the heart, because caffeic acid, an organic compound present equally and in the same amounts in both reds and whites, is actually the true architect of the cardiovascular health of wine, as it is responsible for the production of nitric oxide, one of the best vasodilators produced by the body.

FALSE: A glass of wine before bed helps you sleep

Sure, drinking alcohol can make you sleepy, but it's not a good idea to drink to help you sleep. Thanks to the sedative effects of alcohol, a drink before bed will help you fall asleep faster, it's true, and there's even evidence that some wine grapes contain high amounts of melatonin, a substance that helps sleep.

The problem lies in the quality of sleep, something that the latest studies are giving more and more importance to than the amount of sleep. It is very likely that drinking wine, or any alcoholic drink, just before going to sleep, your sleep is not restful as it should be. A study published in 2015 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research revealed that subjects who drank alcohol just before bedtime experienced an increase in deep sleep early in the night, but later experienced sleep disruption, a higher number of awakenings, and poorer overall sleep quality.

Just as we don't go to bed with a full stomach after dinner, if you're in the habit of having a glass of wine at night, don't do it right before bed.

FALSE: Sulphites cause headaches and hangovers

Sulphites are probably one of the substances that generates the greatest myths in wine, and in reality they are practically harmless in the vast majority of people.

Sulfites are naturally occurring, and although a small amount of sulfites are released from wine during fermentation, most winemakers also add supplemental sulfites to the wine to help protect against spoilage and oxidation, as well as to prevent the appearance of sulphites. bacteria or microorganisms harmful to the body. Adding sulfites to wine is something like adding chlorine to water in order to make it drinkable. On the other hand, the amounts added are regulated and are negligible.

Perhaps because their “chemical” name doesn't do them justice, sulfites are often blamed by urban legends for headaches and hangovers. But, according to science, this is completely false. Headaches and hangovers (as well as other body aches) are caused by alcohol, or more accurately alcohol. excess alcohol. When we ingest alcohol in excess, the body transforms it into acetaldehyde, an organic compound metabolized in the liver from ethanol, and it is this highly toxic compound that produces all the discomforts. In addition, alcohol causes dehydration, which can aggravate symptoms.

As for allergy to sulfites, it rarely occurs. Most health organizations, such as the WHO or the FDA, estimate that the population sensitive to sulfites is less than 1%. And in any case, an allergic reaction does not cause a hangover.

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