|COVID-19 and ALCOHOL | MYTHS and FACTS |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
COVID-19 and ALCOHOL
MYTHS and FACTS
Since January, we all have seen, read and heard, via the Social Media and any other means of communication, all sorts of misleading and controversial things about how alcohol could potentially protect against COVID-19.
Well, first and foremost, you should know (and remember) that consumption of alcohol will, in no way possible or imaginable, protect you from COVID-19 or prevent you from being infected. And therefore, anything you may have seen, read or heard, contradicting that fact is purely and simply misinformation or disinformation.
More especially drinking strong spirits with a high percentage of alcohol (e.g. Whisky, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Brandy, Vermouth, Absinthe, etc...), they won't help at all and they won't clean your inside either (as some people may tend to believe).
Small quantities of strong spirits, from time to time (occasionally), won't do you much harm and usually provide this gratifying sensation as they hit the spot. Whisky as an aperitif or digestif, like Cognac or an Armagnac, at the end of the meal never killed anyone, and even, apparently, tend to benefit the digestion process.
However, drinking strong spirits, or even fortified wines, regularly and in large quantities, at best will get you sick, and at worst will get you completely intoxicated: change your behaviour and impair your senses, thoughts, judgments and decision-making (and eventually will affect and damage your internal organs, potentially leading to more complications). And it won't immune you against or cure you of COVID-19 either. So, don't do it.
|Drinking alcohol to fight COVID-19? |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
WHO: General myths and facts about Alcohol and COVID-19
Here is a short version of what the WHO (World Health Organisation) wrote about the general myths and facts about alcohol and COVID-19 (*):
Myth: Consuming alcohol destroys the virus that causes COVID-19.
Fact: Consuming alcohol will not destroy the virus, and its consumption is likely to increase the health risks if a person becomes infected with the virus. Alcohol (at a concentration of at least 60% by volume) works as a disinfectant on your skin, but it has no such effect within your system when ingested.
Myth: Drinking strong alcohol kills the virus in the inhaled air.
Fact: Consumption of alcohol will not kill the virus in the inhaled air; it will not disinfect your mouth and throat, and it will not give you any kind of protection against COVID-19.
Myth: Alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits or herbal alcohol) stimulates immunity and resistance to the virus.
Fact: Alcohol has a deleterious effect on your immune system and will not stimulate immunity and virus resistance.
That's it, and if you did not know... well, now you know.
|The 3 Types of Alcohol |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
The 3 Main Types of Alcohol
Crazy to say, but, despite some people heavily binging on alcohol, the COVID-19 situation also got some people to acting even weirder by taking or drinking other inadvisable substances and liquids as (nonsense) desperate measures to prevent the virus to enter their body or (just in case if already infected) to get rid of the virus out of their body (without even knowing if they were infected or not).
All sorts of nonsense actions have been reported since the "official" beginning of the pandemic, last January.
People swallowing bleach (and other cleaning products), hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, disinfectant, and even some types of solvents, etc... And what's crazy about it, is that anyone in their right mind knows that these types of products containing alcohol (or other substances including some form of non-drinkable alcohol) are extremely harmful (or even deadly) and should NOT be consumed by humans (especially absorbing bleach or other toxic cleaning products/substances). But, they did it anyway...
Therefore, for your own information, knowledge and safety reasons, and prevent any harm to be done to yourself, it is very important to know that not all alcohol or alcohol-based products are drinkable, and consequently, you should (at least) be aware of which type of alcohol is drinkable or not.
To make it simple, just know that in the Chemistry field, there are 3 main types of alcohol:
1. Isopropyl Alcohol (non-drinkable / harmful)
While all types of alcohol are considered as "Toxic" and potentially dangerous, as no form of alcohol is (normally) good for humans, per se, the use of ethyl alcohol as a recreational drug (more specifically wine and other fermented and even distilled beverages) has been traced as far back as 5400 BC.
Consequently, the human body got used to it with time and alcohol gradually became a cultural part of human life and way of living. Over the course of history, as water may contain bacteria and/or other harmful substances, wine and beer were often prefered as a safer and more satisfying choice of thirst quencher (and still are to this day).
So, remember, although all 3 types of alcohol are considered "toxic", only Ethanol (Ethyl or grain alcohol) can be consumed by humans, the others are usually used as sterilizing agents or as fuels.
|Red Wine Health Benefits |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
Red Wine Health Benefits
Although it won't help against COVID-19, drinking wine, more specifically RED wine, with moderation of course (i.e. 1 or 2 glass per day, and not necessarily every day, except if you are French 😁), has proven to have great health benefits.
Over the last few decades of research on the matter, it has been clinically proven that, when consumed with moderation, on a weekly basis or quite regularly, red wine can contribute to your body health in various ways.
Mainly due to some of the compounds of the Ethanol and the antioxidants and other beneficial components naturally contained in red wine. Drinking red wine with moderation, on regular basis, may:
- Improve your brain health by protecting it against diseases such as Alzheimer or syndrome like Dementia (both leading to deterioration in memory, thinking, behaviour and the ability to perform everyday activities)
- Support your heart health by reducing the risk of heart and cardiovascular diseases
- Protect against lung cancer: A glass of red wine per day can reduce the risk of lung cancer by 13%
- Protect against breast cancer: Moderate consumption of red wine may help lower the risk of breast cancer
- Protect against prostate cancer by reducing men's overall risk of prostate cancer by 50-60%
- Improve and/or even increase age longevity due to the antioxidants contained in the wine
Just remember (or at least be aware) that drinking more than 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per day (more especially strong spirits) may increase the risk of weight gain, cardiovascular and blood circulation problems, internal organs malfunctions, etc... and may potentially also increase the risk breast cancer in women, so moderation is key.
But, what is moderation? Or, do you define moderation?
|Wine Pour Sizes |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
What is Moderation? And what are the Wine Pour Sizes?
"Moderation" seems to greatly vary depending on the individual, as well as the culture and traditions of the country where this particular individual comes from.
For example, "moderation", for some people in Europe (e.g. France, Italy, Spain and/or Portugal), may represent 1 glass of wine or 1 beer with the lunch or in the afternoon, and maybe 2 or 3 glasses of wine with dinner, so between to 3-5 glasses of wine per day (sometimes more, especially on Friday night and during the weekend).
While in other countries, where drinking is less of a cultural/traditional thing, "moderation" might only represent 1 or 2 glasses maximum per day.
No matter what "Moderation" means or represents to you, it seems that the general consensus on the meaning of "drinking with moderation" is defined by "moderate" consumption consisting of 1 glass of wine per day for women and 2 glasses per day for men, based on the common "established" standard that a glass of wine is about 5 oz (150 ml).
But, there again, what exactly represents a glass of wine? While 5 oz (or 150ml) might be the "standard", understandably, the quantity of wine poured into your glass will also vary depending on the country's mores, customs, culture, traditions, as well as the place (restaurant, bar, club, etc...), the circumstances and even the company you're enjoying a glass of wine at and/or with.
Therefore, I created the above illustration to clarify and answer the question, showing the various volumes poured into a glass, based on common practices specific to the different places:
Tasting / Events - 1.7-2 oz (50-60 ml)
Restaurant / Bar / Club - 4.06-5 oz (120-148 ml)
Standard / Regular - 5.1-5.6 oz (150-165 ml)
Home / Family or friends place / Cosy Place - 5.7-6.3 oz (168-186 ml)
If drinking red wine "with moderation" can be good for and benefit your health, don't forget that drinking too much, and too often, will cause harm and have grave consequences on your health, body and mind. Thus, you have to know what are your body's limits and don't exceed the health department and/or your doctor recommendations.
So, before I conclude this post, some of you may wonder what makes drinking red wine good for our health? Well, without getting into too much complicated scientific terms and details, the compounds of the wine that benefit your health are parts of the phenolic content of the wine.
|Wine Phenolic Content Simplified Chart |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
The Phenolic Content of the wine
The phenolic content in wine refers to the "phenolics" or "phenolic compounds" ("Phenol", also called "Simple Phenol" or "Monophenol", and the "Polyphenols"), which are naturally found in wine (mostly Red wine), and include a large group of several hundred chemical compounds that affect (directly or indirectly) the taste, colour and mouthfeel of the wine.
As on the illustration above, and to make it easier to understand, this large group of natural phenols can be separated into two categories, within which we will only focus on the followings (as the rest might get too technical):
In Red wine, the flavonoid phenolic compounds account up to 90% of the wine phenolic content. Predominantly contained in the skin, seeds and stems, the phenols mainly contribute to the colour, taste (astringency) and mouthfeel of the wine. Their release from the grape berries, called the extraction, occurs during the maceration process.
Flavonoids are specifically important for the colour & taste of wine. Anthocyanins and Tannins are the two major flavonoids present in red grapes, together they form pigmented polymers.
For your information, on a technical note, it is good to know that
- Anthocyanins are synthesised after the veraison period when the grape skin changes from green to red to black
- Tannins and flavonols are made between the flowering & the veraison periods
- Tannin maturation occurs from the veraison period to the harvest
In white wine, the flavonoids also exist but are less present than in red wine. Also, the lack of contact and maceration with the skin reduces the amount of these flavonoids.
There are various on-going studies to demonstrate the health benefits of wine, more particularly red wine, derived from the antioxidant and chemopreventive properties of flavonoids.
The flavonoids most important polyphenolic compounds are:
Anthocyanins are a type of flavonoid, a class of polyphenolic compounds with antioxidant effects. Found naturally in red grapes (and other fruits, vegetables, flowers, leaves and plants in general), anthocyanins are the pigments that give them their red, purple, and blue-rich colours. The concentration of anthocyanins (contained in the skin of the grapes) increases as the sugar increases during the ripening period. In most grapes anthocyanins can only be found in the outer cell layer of the skin, leaving the grape juice inside virtually colourless. (see Grape Berry and the Phenolic Compounds below)
Tannins (or tannoids) are a class of astringent, polyphenolic biomolecules that bind to and precipitate proteins and various other organic compounds including amino acids and alkaloids. (Wikipedia)
Flavanols, also known as Flavan-3-ol, include both flavanol monomers (catechins), and flavanol polymers (proanthocyanidins) (see Wikipedia page for more details)
"Flavonols", not to be mistaken with "Flavanols" above, is a subcategory of Flavonoids, which includes the yellow pigment (i.e. quercetin). Like other flavonoids, the concentration of flavonols in the grape berries increases as they are exposed to sunlight. Some viticulturists will use the measurement of flavonols in the grapes (such as quercetin) as an indication of a vineyard's sun exposure and the effectiveness of the used canopy management techniques.
In addition to the chart in the picture above, and to better visualize it, here is an illustration as a simplified representation of the grape berry and its phenolic compounds:
|The Grape Berry and Phenolic Compounds |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
As per the authors of the book "Wine Chemistry and Biochemistry" (Michael Rentzsch, Andrea Wilkens and Peter Winterhalter):
"The non-flavonoid phenolic constituents in wine are divided into hydroxybenzoic acids and hydroxycinnamic acids, volatile phenols, stilbenes and miscellaneous compounds (e.g. lignans and coumarins). Although non-colored, the non-flavonoid constituents are known to enhance and stabilize the color of red wines by intra- and intermolecular reactions. They furthermore contribute to wine flavor (volatile phenolic acids) and some of them (e.g. resveratrol) exhibit potent biological activities." - Wine Chemistry and Biochemistry
The non-flavonoids phenolic compounds are contained in both the skin and the pulp, mainly contributing to the intrinsic properties of the wine. They include compounds like
- Phenolic acids
Although most phenolic compounds in wine fall into the group of "polyphenols" and "oligophenols", phenolic acids are parts of the "monophenols" or "simple phenolic" compounds such as benzoic and cinnamic acids and their hydroxylated derivatives. Phenolic Acids are usually divided into 2 types of acids: hydroxybenzoic acids (benzoic) and hydroxycinnamic acids (cinnamic and affeic). Phenolic acids or phenolcarboxylic acids are types of aromatic acid compound.
Stilbenoids (Stilbenes) are a group of naturally occurring phenolic compounds found in various plant species. They share a common backbone structure known as stilbene but differ in the nature and position of substituents. The Vitaceae, which includes the grapevine Vitis Vinifera, is the most prominent stilbene containing plant family.
Stilbenoids include phenolic compounds such as the resveratrol, a rich antioxidant which has been the subject of controversial theories and many studies since the early 90s, that I will detail a bit further in the last paragraph of this post.
Regarding the stilbenoids, as per the Waterhouse Lab:
"Research has shown that stilbenoids are “phytoalexins,” which means a plant synthesizes these compounds as a response to microbial or abiotic stress, namely fungal infection and exposure to UV-radiation. To winemakers, this function of combating external stress is extremely useful considering grey mold and sun exposure are common issues in food production. The maintenance of the grapevine is ultimately made simpler by these protective chemicals. In addition, stilbenoids are by nature antioxidants. In theory, this could help with the stabilization of a wine by preventing oxidation. In practice, however, stilbenoid activity in wine has been shown to be relatively static and does not significantly contribute to the reduction of oxidative compounds." - Waterhouse Lab
- And many other compounds (Lignans, Courmarins, etc...)
Now, because we just described the Stilbenoids, let's finish on a healthy note and try to better understand what is Resveratrol?
|"Le vin rend fort. Buvons du vin" poster - Docteur Widal|
What is Resveratrol? And why it makes red wine good for your health?
This old poster above is very "à propos" (for this last paragraph) as it is titled
"Le Vin rend fort. Buvons du Vin"
(meaning "Wine makes you strong. Let's drink some wine")...
...and in the upper left side corner, there is a quote from Docteur Widal (de l'Academie de Medecine, Professeur à la faculté de Paris) saying:
"Le vin de France est un tonique pour les muscles
et un stimulant pour l'esprit"
(meaning "The wine of France is a tonic for the muscles and a stimulant for the spirit" - or for the mind if you prefer)
And I could not agree more with this poster, wine is good for your body and mind and overall health, and it is, apparently, mostly because of a phenolic compound, part of the stilbenoids group, called Resveratrol. But what is Resveratrol exactly?
Resveratrol is a stilbenoid, a type of natural phenol (a polyphenol to be exact), and a phytoalexin (an antimicrobial and often antioxidative substance) naturally produced by several plants, usually, in response to injury or stress when the plant is under attack by pathogens, such as bacteria or fungi.
Resveratrol is naturally found in the skin (and the seeds) of grapes, but also blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, and peanuts.
As part of the group of the phenolic compounds, called polyphenols, acting as antioxidants, protecting the fruit against bacterial and fungi aggressions, it is believed to have a similar function/action on the human body. When consumed either via the fruit itself, or a derivated form of it such as fruit juice or wine, Resveratol may protect against and/or reduce the risk of serious conditions such as cancer and heart disease.
Is that true? No one knows for sure but, in any case, Resveratrol is a rich antioxidant, which has healthy properties for the human body for sure and it has been partly proven that it does have great health benefits if taken in the right doses.
It is important to precise that fact, and speak of it with caution, as Resveratrol has been the subject of many controversial theories and many studies since the early 90s.
Resveratrol became one the most popularized of all the stilbenoids, when, in 1992, a study reported that resveratrol seemed to possess properties that could inhibit tumour growth treated on certain animal models. Yet, more studies are needed to confirm its real effects on humans.
However, since then, the amount of research conducted on this particular phenolic compound has surged dramatically in the last 3 decades.
As per Waterhouse Lab: "Unfortunately, the levels of resveratrol reported in wine versus the amounts used in these health studies are significantly different. The average concentration of resveratrol in red wine is 1.1-2.7mg/L. In a study out of the University of Illinois, it was suggested that resveratrol may play a crucial role in the prevention of heart disease, but the level of exposure in test mice were 8mg/kg of body weight. If translatable to humans, a 150-pound individual would need about 544mg of resveratrol for an effect to occur. To obtain this quantity of resveratrol from red wine, one would have to consume about 266 bottles. In many other health-related studies on resveratrol, the quantities of exposure are also significantly above what a person would ingest from a glass or two of wine. As it stands, research suggests that stilbenoids’ importance in the winemaking process is limited to their role as a phytoalexin in grapevines." - 2016 Waterhouse Lab
In short, for the small amount of Resveratrol contained in red wine to really have an effect on the human body, one will need to drink more than 2 glasses per day and/or the equivalent of 266 bottles per year... or roughly 3/4 of a bottle a day, which is definitely doable!
NB: If the general consensus of a standard glass of wine is 150 ml (or 5 oz) as we stated it above, then that is a total of 5 glasses for a 750 ml standard bottle or a total 1330 glasses of wine per year... (most people I know drink that much per day and even more... normal, like me they are French and it is in our culture. Do you know a French who does not drink wine? I don't...😁)
|Buvez du Vin et Vivez Joyeux French ad from 1939 |
by Leonetto Cappiello [1875-1942]
Wine is good for you as it benefits your health, body and mind, as well as your mood and spirit
However, to conclude this post, I will say that, even if drinking wine does not help against or cure Covid-19, it definitely helps to cope with it to a certain extent. And don't get me wrong, I'm not inciting anyone to binge on alcohol, I'm just pointing at the fact that a glass of wine or two a day, never hurt anyone.
On the contrary, and no matter how you see it, and whether it is due to Resveratrol or not, when drunk with moderation, Red wine (wine in general) is good for you.
Moreover, over the last decade, the latest researches and studies on the subject, have proven and concluded that drinking wine (Red wine more particularly), with moderation (for all the followings), and, thus, absorbing a certain dose of Resveratol, as well as the other numerous phenolic compounds (acting as antioxidants and antimicrobial) naturally contained in wine, may help to:
- Protect and preserve your heart
In moderation, drinking red wine has long been proven to keep your heart healthy, as, the alcohol and certain phenolic compounds containing antioxidants, found in red wine, may help prevent coronary artery disease, the condition that leads to heart attacks.
- Lower LDL (bad) Cholesterol
In moderation, it has been proven that drinking red wine increases the level of HDL (good) Cholesterol and also protects arteries, while, also lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol, due to phenolic compounds such as Resveratrol and the action of Saponins, glucosides that have cholesterol-lowering properties as well.
- Prevent colds
Recent studies in Spain have proven that people drinking a glass of red wine per day are 44% less likely to catch a cold compared to those who don't. That's good news, isn't it? With the winter season nearly upon us, it gives us one more reason to open some bottles now.
- Reduce Inflammation
Recent studies demonstrated that the anti-inflammatory properties associated with Resveratrol and other phenolic compounds with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties may help reduce inflammation caused by certain allergies and diseases.
- Inhibit the growth of cancer cells
Mostly in animal experiments, for now, and more studies are needed to confirm it on humans, but, so far, encouraging results showing progress in that direction.
- Sleep better
Both red and white wine naturally contain melatonin, a hormone with sleep-inducing properties, which appear to be more present in rich and deep red wines. Therefore, you might benefit from eating red grapes and/or drink full-bodied red wines to get a little boost of melatonin and improve the quality and lasting of your sleep.
- Remain younger and healthier
The various phenolic compounds acting antioxidants and antimicrobial (called polyphenols) like "Resveratrol", as well as other things like "Melatonin", (also an antioxidant), contained in wine, have health benefits and anti-ageing and cancer preventative properties, which, with regular exercises and a healthy lifestyle will help you to remain younger and healthier longer.
Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. Alcohol itself may have (to some degree) some protective effects when consumed in moderation.
|So, who is this "moderation" everyone keeps telling me to drink with? |
by ©LeDomduVin 2020
In conclusion, all you have to remember is that, even if drinking wine or strong alcohol will not do anything against COVID-19, in moderation (of course), it will definitely help to cope with it. More especially, if you are in a zone under "confinement".
And also remember that, at the end of the day, drinking some wine (with moderation) may have benefits on your health, body and mind, mood and spirit, as well as your "Joie de vivre" and overall happiness.
Wine brings people together. New bonds of friendship and/or companionship are usually formed during memorable shared occasions, with family or friends, or both, over delicious meals, often enhanced with a few bottles of wine, as minds, spirits and hearts opened up.
"Nowadays, in the world we live in, drinking wine is not only a necessity, it is necessary!" - LeDomduVin 2020
Thank you for reading my post,
Until next time, take good care of yourself and loved ones, stay and be safe, and give some love around as that's all we've got.
LeDomduVin (a.k.a. Dominique Noël)
Sources and Links:
(*) If interested, WHO (World Health Organisation) wrote a full PDF document about the general myths and facts about alcohol and COVID-19 available at
(**) Spelling mistake on the "3 Types of Alcohol" illustration above, for Ethanol, it is "principal" ingredient not "principle", but you surely figure it out.
Unless specified otherwise, ALL the above including, but not limited to, the illustrations, pictures, charts and texts ©LeDomduVin 2020