When I was thinking of writing on wine, the Scripture I remembered was what the wisest man said in Proverbs 23: 29-35: “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaints? Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes? Those who linger over wine, who go to sample bowls of mixed wine. Do not gaze at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly! In the end it bites like a snake and poisons like a viper. Your eyes will see strange sights, and your mind will imagine confusing things. You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, lying on top of the rigging. ‘They hit me,’ you will say, ‘but I’m not hurt! They beat me, but I don’t feel it! When will I wake up so I can find another drink?”
With King Solomon’s warning on drinking wine, there is no doubt that all is not well with wine which many people enjoy drinking. In the year 2000 there was an explosion of reports on the health benefits of wine, especially the red wine. Red wine contains two types of antioxidants – resveratrol and quercetin. Antioxidants are substances that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules produced when your body breaks down food, or by environmental exposures like tobacco smoke and radiation. They damage cells and play a role in heart disease, cancer and other diseases. Research has shown that resveratrol reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attacks and strokes. It dilates arteries and increases blood flow. It has been shown to suppress the growth of breast and prostate cancer cells. There is evidence that resveratrol can slow down the growth of liver cancer cells. Quercetin may inhibit the growth of oral cancer cells.
These antioxidants in wine appear to boost levels of HDL, the “good” cholesterol, and help prevent LDL or “bad” cholesterol from causing damage to the lining of the arteries. In addition, resveratrol contains dietary iron, potassium, manganese, phosphorus, fluoride, vitamins B6 etc. These nutrients in wine promote good health and longevity. These good reports have encouraged drinking of red wine and many types of wines have flooded the market. Health experts have recommended wine as “good for your heart”.
Some wine drinkers seem not to care about the effects of the alcohol contained in wine. The common table wine contains between 15 per cent and 22 per cent of alcohol. Short-term effects of alcohol use include: distorted vision and hearing, hangover, impaired emotions and judgement. After years of drinking alcohol, some health problems like liver disease, heart disease, certain forms of cancer (especially cancer of the oesophagus, mouth, throat and larynx) and pancreatitis often develop.
A survey in the US shows that over 10million Americans (10 per cent of adult drinkers) are estimated to be alcoholic. Each year alcoholism and alcohol abuse cost the society $40 to $60 billion due to lost production, medical care, motor vehicle accidents, violent crimes and social programmes for alcohol problems.
In some countries, wine is popularly taken with lunch and dinner. Some drink 2 – 3 glasses daily. However, in Nigeria, most people cannot afford wine in their homes but drink occasionally during functions or ceremonies. Only the rich people have access to wine at all times. The common man consumes alcohol in beer, which contains 3 to 10 per cent alcohol.
Some Christian denominations prohibit or discourage the use of alcohol during their functions. Denominations that are not strict only caution against drunkenness. Islam prohibits alcoholic drinks. Many people abstain from, alcoholic drinks in whatever form while some drink small quantities occasionally.
Wine is a beverage prepared from the fruit of the vine and it is good, if taken in moderation. But if you cannot discipline yourself, it is better to completely keep away from it. In Titus 3:8 Paul advised Titus that older women should not be “slaves to drink”. Paul advised Timothy that deacons should not be “addicted to much wine” (1 Timothy 3:8). Aaron and his sons, the priests, were strictly forbidden to drink wine or strong drink when they went into the tabernacle to minister before the Lord (Leviticus 10:9). Nazarites were forbidden to use wine under their vow (Numbers 6:1-3, 20).
God is concerned with how we treat our bodies, including what we eat and drink. I Corinthians says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it for the glory of God”. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you received of God? Therefore, honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Research has shown that there may be some minor health benefits of alcohol, if taken in moderation. Such benefits include reducing the risk of gallstones, and decreasing the chance of developing type 2 diabetes. But how do you determine moderate drinking? It depends on the individual, sex, age, mood etc. Of course, pregnant women must avoid alcohol.
The major health benefits of wine come from resveratrol and quercetin. But you can adequately obtain these antioxidants from non-alcoholic wine, which contains only traces or no alcohol at all. Red grapes, red apples, peanut butter, dark chocolate and blueberries are rich in resveratrol and other antioxidants. They also contain various amounts of dietary fibre, vitamins C, K, B1, and minerals like manganese, potassium, iron and copper. Some supplements contain resveratrol. High dose resveratrol supplements of 250mg daily are available. Quercetin is found in dark red or purple fruits, red grapes, blueberries, red apples, blackberries, onions, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, and herbal tea.