Even though alcohol kills millions of people every year, humans have been imbibing for millennia. In the last few decades, wine, in particular, has gained a reputation for being good for our health. Red wine even has been linked with longevity and lower risk of heart disease.
But could wine really be good for us?
The first question, of course, is what we mean by “good for us”. Many people think of heart health when we think of the potential upsides of wine.
What is less well-known is that research has found strong links between alcohol and cancer. One bottle of wine per week is associated with an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk for non-smokers of 1% for men and 1.4% for women. This equates one bottle of wine per week to five cigarettes for men, or 10 for women.
“While a lot of work [has] been done to communicate the link between smoking and cancer, this is less so for alcohol because public health officials control messaging for smoking, whereas with alcohol, it’s largely been up to the alcohol industry to communicate this itself,” says Mark Bellis, director of policy, research and international development at Public Health Wales.