The Wine Partner

The Wine Partner from L'Atelier du Vin tracks alcohol consumption.

Submitted photo

When consumed in moderation, wine is a great social lubricant. It has the capacity to render the most boring people charming and to liven up the stuffiest gatherings. But what is considered "moderation"? You may be surprised.

According to the 2015-20 dietary guidelines issued by the United States Department of Agriculture, moderation means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. These are not sexist recommendations, but have to do with human genetics.

Males of the human species tend to have more muscle mass, whereas women tend to be a bit fluffier around the edges. Muscle mass is made up of more water than marshmallow fluff; therefore, generally, men metabolize alcohol slightly more efficiently than women.

According to USDA recommendations, one alcoholic drink equivalent is defined as 12 fluid ounces of beer at 5 percent by volume; 5 fluid ounces of wine at 12 percent by volume; and 1.5 fluid ounces of an 80 proof distilled spirit.

Note that these guidelines created by the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in collaboration with the USDA do not advocate or promote alcohol consumption, but they acknowledge that moderate consumption of alcohol does not preclude a healthy lifestyle.

This report also defines what constitutes immoderate alcohol consumption.

High-risk drinking for women is the consumption of four or more drinks on any day, or eight or more drinks a week.

For men, high-risk drinking is the consumption of five or more drinks on any day, or 15 or more drinks per week.

Such drinking has no health benefits, and threatens all aspects of your well-being and the well-being of others around you.

The report further advises that drinks missed in any given week do not carry forward. If drinks are saved for the weekend, such behavior might move one into the problem -drinker category

There is a huge body of research regarding health benefits of red wine consumption. It is thought by some, including the medical profession, that a compound called resveratrol found in red wine can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower cholesterol, prevent diabetes and mitigate a host of other ailments.

Interest in resveratrol was heightened in 1990 when CBS’s "60 Minutes" ran a segment on the French Paradox.

The show compared the diets of the French, who eat lots of butter and rich food yet have surprisingly low instances of heart disease, to the diets of Americans, who eat less butter and rich food but have high instances of heart disease.

The segment hypothesized that the French had lower instances of heart disease due to their consumption of red wines rich in resveratrol.

American red wine consumption has been on the rise since the release of this program, but the verdict of the scientific community is still at odds regarding benefits of red wine consumption.

The one area where there is unanimous agreement is moderation. One five-ounce pour of red wine per day is the recommended dosage. This is a situation where more is not better.

These guidelines regarding alcohol consumption relate to the amount of alcohol one may consume for optimum health benefits. Following these guidelines will not necessarily ensure, should you place yourself in a position to take a breathalyzer test, that your blood alcohol level would be below .08, the legal limit in most states.

For most people of average size, two glasses of wine will not put one over the .08 level. However, if slight of build, taking prescribed drugs or fasting, one drink can put you over .08. Therefore, always eat something when consuming alcoholic beverages.

I hate to bring this up, but, in addition to moderating alcohol consumption for health and to keep you and others safe on the road, calories should be monitored if trying to maintain weight control.

Twelve ounces of regular beer contains approximately 150 calories, five ounces of wine 120 calories, and a seven-ounce drink of rum and coke about 155 calories.

Keep these things in mind as you resolve to do better in 2016.

Contact Pat Kettles at pkettles@annistonstar.com.