Red Wine: Stories About The Benefits May Not Weigh The Risks … Or The Healthier Alternatives
13 January, 2022
Red, red wine.
It’s easy to develop certain assumptions about it. Widely available and one of the most socially acceptable ways to drink, red wine is unique among other alcoholic beverages.
Namely, there are frequent studies touting its benefits.
The claims are many: red wine helps circulation. It improves thinking ability. It’s filled with antioxidants. Spend enough time reading blogs, lifestyle sites and think pieces, and you’ll come away wondering why the stuff isn’t available on tap.
Here’s the funny thing: the other side of the bottle doesn’t get discussed as often.
Jada Pinkett Smith recently shared her own experience with red wine (and other substances) on her Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk. She’s got a long resume – acting, producer, entrepreneur, and more – and perhaps can now add “moderation advocate” to her roles.
A Wakeup Call: When Pinkett Realized Enough Was Enough
In the episode of her show, Pinkett describes how she realized her drinking was spiraling out of control when she reached for a third bottle of wine. “It was cold turkey that day,” she says, “That day I just stopped.”
Pinkett describes red wine as “like Kool-Aid.” Chiefly a drinker of hard liquor, the talk show host describes being less concerned about the potential of addiction when it came to red wine due to the good press it gets. She also describes herself as being able to drink her husband, actor Will Smith, under the table. “Drinking red wine for me was like drinking glasses of water,” says Pinkett.
This moment of clarity wasn’t Pinkett’s first run-in with substances. When she first moved to Los Angeles in 1990, she began to use a “cocktail” consisting of ecstasy (MDMA), vodka, and cannabis.
Aside from the dangers of combining alcohol and ecstasy, Pinkett describes the moment when she quit those substances in 1996. During the filming of the Eddie Murphy comedy The Nutty Professor, Pinkett passed out in her trailer. Later blaming the incident on out-of-date medications, Pinkett describes coming away from the incident far more mindful of the substances she was consuming.
Although Pinkett is not in recovery and still occasionally drinks, her story illustrates a point: the dangers of accepting studies at face value.
The Importance Of Keeping Perspective In The Clickbait Age
The thing to remember about a lot of writing online is much of it is aimed at getting clicks. Clicks, time spent on pages, social shares … for many of us who write online for a living, these data points are in part how we justify our value.
It’s certainly valuable data; among other things, it gives marketers critical insights into how their strategies are working and can give businesses ideas on how to better meet the needs of their customers.
Writing eye-catching, provocative copy is a great way to get those data points up … but it comes with risks. Specifically, not giving a complete story to the audience.
Here’s an example: Compare these two headlines:
“Study Shows Ingredient In Red Wine Prevents Cancer”
“Study Appears To Show Red Wine Ingredient May Reduce Cancer Risk In Some Cases; Have No Effect In Others”
Which one would you click first? Both headlines are perfectly fine … but one’s a bit more exciting. Headline writing favors the short, declarative, and punchy. Plus, cancer is a terrible disease; people are eager to hear anything which can either prevent or cure it.
So the headline that makes a simple, declarative statement about a potential way to prevent cancer is more attractive to read – but it also leaves out a few details.
Plus, these stories contain additional risks for people struggling with addiction – if an alcoholic drink like red wine is so beneficial to health, are they missing out on the benefits if they’re either drinking harmfully or in recovery?
Not at all.
No Such Thing As A Magic Ingredient
Two ingredients found in red wine reliably come up when writers are talking studies: antioxidants and resveratrol. Antioxidants are a wide family of compounds which slow cell damage; resveratrol is a compound found in grapes which may have positive circulatory effects.
The benefits of antioxidants are well-known. Better yet, they’re found across a wide range of vitamins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – none of which come with the risks of alcohol abuse.
As for resveratrol … well, the studies are out on that one. According to the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), some lab tests have shown that yes, resveratrol appears to have cancer prevention qualities. However, USC researchers also caution that the amount of wine a person would have to consume to achieve the supposed benefits of resveratrol would cancel out its positive effects.
There is one thing which is clear to researchers, however: drinking alcohol is definitely a risk factor for cancers. Also, red wine is still alcohol, an addictive substance.
Alcohol Abuse Is Treatable With The Right Solution
Finally, back to Pinkett’s story. Being able to drink your partner under the table can seem funny and cute, but those of us in the treatment industry know it represents something worse: tolerance.
Like other addictive substances, the body becomes used to regular alcohol consumption, meaning the drinker has to drink larger and larger amounts to feel the same effects. Eventually, this behavior pattern of alcohol consumption develops into addiction – in alcohol’s case, the body can be rewired to act as though it needs alcohol for regular function, creating withdrawal symptoms when a person isn’t able to drink.
Those symptoms, in rare cases, can result in seizures and worse. It’s why Pinkett’s “cold turkey” approach is risky – having trained professionals in your corner when you’re trying to change your behaviors isn’t just safe, it’s part of the foundation for a lasting recovery.
The Edge Treatment Center uses evidence-backed treatment modalities as part of a holistic approach to our clients’ health. We heal our patients in mind, body, and spirit, helping them recover from the physical symptoms of addiction while dealing with the underlying issues driving substance abuse.
For more information and a free consultation, contact an Edge expert below.
Photo credits to Deadline.