Episode 21

Alcohol and the Mediterranean Diet

Published on: 12th October, 2022

Alcohol and the Mediterranean Diet

Alcohol consumption is controversial.  No one disputes that excess alcohol consumption leads to dire consequences. But what about moderate alcohol consumption? Can we define moderate alcohol consumption? Is there a safe and therapeutic level of alcohol consumption?

Alcohol is a component of the Mediterranean Diet. However, the consumption is limited to 10 ounces of red wine for men, which translates to 14 grams of alcohol. Half that amount for women. In a number of articles, this amount of alcohol is beneficial.

Bias from Authors

Confirmation bias is ingrained in all humans.  Treatment programs for alcohol addiction teach that there is no safe level of alcohol consumption.  Fundamentalist Christians, Muslims, and other organized religions have taboos regarding alcohol consumption. Finally, consumers of alcohol will be biased against abstinence.

Components of Wine

In their article, Wine, Polypenols and Mediterranean Diet, the authors note that one can get polyphenols from other sources in the diet, and thus the alcohol may be unnecessary.  They conclude that moderate consumption is likely an important component of a mechanistic as well as social norm.

Dose Dependent Effects of Polyphenols on the Body

  • Decreased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Dose-dependent reduction of LDL-C
  • Increase HDL-C and decrease triglycerides in patients with diabetes
  • Reduction of Blood Pressure
  • Increase production of nitric oxide (NO), which increases blood flow and reduces blood pressure
  • Improve LDL/HDL ratio
  • Resveratrol inhibition of pro-inflammatory agents
  • lower risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Resveratrol improves glucose homeostasis
  • Modulate gut microbiota
  • Improvement in blood vessel wall function (endothelial function)
  • Reduction of drugs in diabetic patients

Mechanistic vs Holistic

The issue with the Mediterranean Diet is always those who approach from a mechanistic view versus those who approach nutrition and lifestyle from a holistic view. The original data from the Mediterranean Diet came from the Seven Countries Study. This was a holistic examination, not only of their diet but also their lifestyle.

Alcohol Toxicity is in the Dose

A bit of wine is good, a lot of wine is not.

If you look at every improvement in human physiology with alcohol listed above, the opposite effect happens when the dose is beyond about 50 grams of alcohol.


Produced by Simpler Media

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About the Podcast

Fork U with Dr. Terry Simpson
Learn more about what you put in your mouth.
Fork U(niversity)
Not everything you put in your mouth is good for you.

There’s a lot of medical information thrown around out there. How are you to know what information you can trust, and what’s just plain old quackery? You can’t rely on your own “google fu”. You can’t count on quality medical advice from Facebook. You need a doctor in your corner.

On each episode of Your Doctor’s Orders, Dr. Terry Simpson will cut through the clutter and noise that always seems to follow the latest medical news. He has the unique perspective of a surgeon who has spent years doing molecular virology research and as a skeptic with academic credentials. He’ll help you develop the critical thinking skills so you can recognize evidence-based medicine, busting myths along the way.

The most common medical myths are often disguised as seemingly harmless “food as medicine”. By offering their own brand of medicine via foods, These hucksters are trying to practice medicine without a license. And though they’ll claim “nutrition is not taught in medical schools”, it turns out that’s a myth too. In fact, there’s an entire medical subspecialty called Culinary Medicine, and Dr. Simpson is certified as a Culinary Medicine Specialist.

Where today's nutritional advice is the realm of hucksters, Dr. Simpson is taking it back to the realm of science.

About your host

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Terry Simpson

Dr. Terry Simpson received his undergraduate, graduate, and medical degrees from the University of Chicago where he spent several years in the Kovler Viral Oncology laboratories doing genetic engineering. Until he found he liked people more than petri dishes. Dr. Simpson, a weight loss surgeon is an advocate of culinary medicine, he believes teaching people to improve their health through their food and in their kitchen. On the other side of the world, he has been a leading advocate of changing health care to make it more "relationship based," and his efforts awarded his team the Malcolm Baldrige award for healthcare in 2018 and 2011 for the NUKA system of care in Alaska and in 2013 Dr Simpson won the National Indian Health Board Area Impact Award. A frequent contributor to media outlets discussing health related topics and advances in medicine, he is also a proud dad, husband, author, cook, and surgeon “in that order.”