New Study Says Your Nightly Glass of Wine May Not Be Good for You After All

Here's what we've gotten wrong about drinking in moderation.

If your evening routine includes a nightly glass of wine, it might be time to think twice about your nightcap. Increasingly, research now suggests that any amount of alcohol consumption can harm your health, causing increased incidence of cancer, heart disease, and more.

Though the dangers of excessive drinking are well-known, some studies are now highlighting the dangers of even moderate alcohol intake. Read on to learn why even one glass of wine could actually be a serious health hazard.

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Drinking any amount of alcohol can harm your health, new research suggests.

Lonely mature woman holding glass of alcoholic drink while sitting on sofa at home during the day.

As researchers take a closer look at the health effects of our drinking habits, many are sounding the alarm about its potential dangers. In fact, a Nov. 2022 study concluded that roughly 140,000 deaths are attributable to excessive alcohol use each year. While some of those deaths were due to alcohol-caused car crashes and other acute incidents, 60 percent were caused by chronic health conditions such as cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and more.

Experts say that alcohol can trigger these serious health conditions by damaging DNA and causing oxidative stress, which prevents our cells from healing. Ultimately, the toll is high: The study authors wrote that "one in eight deaths among adults aged 20 to 64 years were attributable to excessive alcohol use."

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Here's how alcohol compares to tobacco use.

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A 2019 study analyzed the absolute cancer risk associated with smoking cigarettes compared with those associated with drinking a single bottle of wine per week. The team behind the study found that drinking a weekly bottle of wine is linked with an increased absolute lifetime cancer risk for non-smokers of 1.0 percent in men and 1.4 percent in women. Put another way, the increase in absolute cancer risk for those who drink one bottle of wine per week was equal to smoking five cigarettes per week for men, and ten cigarettes per week for women.

Of course, if you drink more than the equivalent of one 750ml bottle of wine per week, your risk can increase significantly. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that women limit their alcohol intake to no more than one serving of alcohol per day, and that men drink no more than two servings of alcohol per day on days when they drink.

Experts are calling the supposed benefits of wine into question.

Man Getting Heart Checked By Doctor
DC Studio/Shutterstock

Since the 1970s, the practice of drinking wine in moderation has enjoyed the reputation of being heart healthy. However, some scientists now say that the association between wine and heart health is one of correlation, not causation. According to Mariann Piano, PhD, RN, FAAN, a professor of nursing at Vanderbilt University who recently spoke with The New York Times on the topic, those who drink red wine moderately are simply more likely to have other good heart health habits, such as eating well and exercising.

The alcohol itself appears to provide no additional protection, and in fact very likely undermines the benefits of these other health habits, new research shows. That's because even moderate alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythm, blood clots, and stroke, The New York Times reports.

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Drinking less can provide incremental benefits—even if you don't quit entirely.

Man choosing not to drink.
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As the research rolls in, it seems to suggest that from a health perspective, the optimal number of weekly drinks is zero. However, if the thought of quitting drinking entirely seems too daunting, cutting down can also provide incremental benefits (and may be a more sustainable switch for some people).

According to Harvard Health Publishing, there are many simple steps you can take to reduce your overall alcohol intake. These include setting drinking goals, keeping track of your triggers, avoiding alcohol in the home, choosing alcohol-free days, drinking slowly, and more.

If you believe you may suffer from alcohol use disorder or addiction, seeking professional help can be a crucial step in your recovery. You can reach the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) national helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for assistance.

Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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