In Defense of Holiday Wine

If one more person tells me that my glass of Riesling will give me cancer, I might lose my mind.

You’re likely familiar with news stories claiming consuming alcohol will increase your cancer risk. Some folks are even advocating total abstinence to “save themselves.”

The latest hand-wringing headlines originated with a policy statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). These aren’t your usual teetotalers… They represent the latest breakthroughs in cancer research.

They issued a statement saying alcohol increases cancer risk, and urged folks to cut back.

Of course, the mainstream media picked up on this and ramped up the scary headlines…

But here’s what those studies say if you dig into them… Almost all the problems are seen with heavy drinking. A glass of wine here and there (like at your holiday dinner) won’t hurt you. It’s dose-dependent… If you have multiple drinks every day, you’ll have more health problems… And those include a higher risk of cancer.

In fact, the ASCO cited a paper from the European Code Against Cancer that has this statistic in it (that all those scare-tactic media outlets failed to mention):

Almost 90% of the burden of disease attributable to alcohol is caused by heavy drinking, both regular and irregular.

One of the possible mechanisms of action is a by-product of alcohol called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde contributes to DNA damage, the first step to cancer growth.

There’s even one study that singled out white wine as raising melanoma risk… but failed to explain why. Red wine has just as much acetaldehyde, but didn’t have the same results.

And remember… We’ve seen plenty of similar headlines associating a single food or product with cancer. In fact, a study a few years ago looked at 50 ingredients selected at random from an ordinary cookbook… Researchers found that 80% of the ingredients were associated with at least one study suggesting a cancer risk!

The title of the paper from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition… “Is everything we eat associated with cancer?”

I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it: Cancer is a multi-factorial disease. Many things increase your risk. In fact, more and more research on the links between genetics and cancer is published every week.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, about a third of all cancers are caused by a combination of lifestyle factors, including being overweight or obese, low physical inactivity, poor diet, and excessive drinking.

So we aren’t about to give up our holiday wine. Instead, we urge you to always use moderation. Don’t overindulge in wine… or food, for that matter.

Now with that said, let’s talk about…

The Best Wine for Your Turkey

I’ve written before about how to pick the best wines for your meal. The best note is to pair spice with sweet. Sweeter wines, especially some types of Rieslings, tend to pair better with spicier foods.

I grew up drinking white wines from Germany, so I’m partial to dry whites on Turkey Day. They also remind me of my dad, who regularly allowed me to sip wine during Thanksgiving with family. If you’re game, look for the grape varietal Riesling. You can find domestic, German, and Austrian Rieslings at local wine shops. Another good German wine to try is Gew├╝rztraminer, which is sweet, but often not as sweet as Rieslings.

Sweeter wines help with spicy foods by coating your tongue, which is likely burning from the spice. Keep in mind, lower alcohol wines, like Rieslings and Moscatos, are also gentler on your palate as you enjoy spicy foods. So if you have a lot of heavily seasoned foods on your table, this would be a good pairing.

Also, for a heavy meal like Thanksgiving, a lighter, lower alcohol wine will do well. If you want a red, I recommend checking out my friend Brenda Lynch’s 2014 HellHound Red. (Her winery is dog-themed and donates to animal societies, the reason for her dog-themed labels.)

The 2014 HellHound Red is Brenda’s latest Double Gold-winning wine in the “red wine under $50” category at the 2017 Sonoma County Fair.

Here are her tasting notes: “Dark and violent, a hellish blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel, and Petite Sirah. Certainly not for the faint of heart.”

She refuses to share the exact blend, but I’ve had this about three times in the past month and it’s without a doubt perfect for Thanksgiving foods. You can find more on her website here.

So don’t let the naysayers get you down. As always, moderation is the key. I plan on having a glass to celebrate the holiday with my family.

What We’re Reading…

Here’s to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Baltimore, Maryland
November 16, 2017