Professor Tim Spector says alcoholic drink helps heart health and inflammation

Nutritional scientist Tim Spector has given red wine lovers some good news - it’s ok to have a glass or two. The professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London and founder of the Zoe health app spoke out in a column for the Daily Telegraph saying it could even be ‘beneficial’.

Prof Spector said that it was ok to have ‘occasionally’ and emphasised that: “According to some, by defending my evening glass of red, I am somehow green-lighting alcohol as a healthy drink for everyone to have every day. This, you will be unsurprised to hear, is not my professional opinion – there is always a need for balance.

“Of course, I am no fool. I know that alcohol is a poison. Many people become addicted and suffer significant health consequences. There is absolutely no doubt about this. “

However, Prof Spector said there were also scientific studies which showed that unusually for alcoholic drinks, red wine does have some health benefits - particularly for the heart. He said: “There is good evidence that a glass of red wine a day protects heart health. Other alcoholic drinks do not. This protective effect is partly due to plant chemicals in red wine called polyphenols, which are antioxidants that help feed your gut microbiome. They’re also present in traditionally brewed ciders and, to a lesser extent, rosé wines.” Having healthy guts also is a great help with inflammation.

Having a relaxing time with friends and family was also of great benefit he said: “Aside from the polyphenols, we must not underestimate the social benefits of having a drink with friends. This is especially true as we get older – there are strong links between good social networks and decreased mortality risk. In the West, we are facing a pandemic of loneliness, and for some, a drink with friends can be a genuine lifeline.

“Some people never drink, and some people give up alcohol, feel much better, and never touch it again. If this is you, I am not recommending you start drinking red wine now. “ He added: “Most of the people that I know do drink alcohol. As boring as it sounds, moderation is key – and if you drink red wine in moderation and make sure you have alcohol-free days, any negative impacts are likely to be relatively minor, especially when you factor in the benefits of polyphenols and social connection.”

“Teetotallers certainly shouldn’t start drinking red wine just for the health benefits. But for many people, a teetotal life is simply not realistic or practical. We need to face facts: many of us like drinking alcohol, and if we can manage to do it in a controlled and reasonable way and stick to red wine, it is unlikely to do much harm and may provide benefits.”