Every once in a while, a new medical study comes out that seems like a gift from above. It indicates that something we already want to do is good for us and will help us meet one or more health goals. We know the saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is,” but it’s hard to resist the siren song of hearing exactly what you want to hear. But, if it seems too good to be true, you should probably spend some extra time evaluating the evidence to be sure it’s worthy of your time and trust.
This, of course, leads to the newest study telling us that red wine might be magical health juice. Or, phrased more specifically, there are some compound in red wine that may interfere with some cavity causing bacteria’s ability to form a dangerous biofilm. This is interesting, but it’s worth a close read.
As with everything in research, sometimes the conclusions must be taken with a grain of salt. Studies are never all black or all white and are influenced by many factors including the study design and the study population. Despite the noted scholar George Clooney’s claim, the science is NEVER settled; that’s the nature of science and research. That’s particularly true in studies like this one, that employ analogues (not actually happening in the body) and situations that are not realistic for daily habits and life (47 hours of continuous exposure to the polyphenols–longer than one generally holds a sip of wine).
We have long established that polyphenols have an antibacterial effect. The specific polyphenols this study looked at are also found in many other foods that the article listed: dark chocolate, most of the berry species, and most notably coffee and tea. The anticavity properties of tea polyphenols have been extensively studied in China. Cranberries are another really great source. But, most people are not going to get excited about a study claiming that red onions and spinach will save your teeth from cavities. These foods do not have the same glamour as red wine and chocolate.
Further, it should be noted that polyphenols come with a downside as well. All of these foods and drink are highly chromogenic; they cause tooth staining. This would be a good time to remember the concept “all things in moderation.” Red wine may indeed help prevent oral diseases, and some studies have shown that in moderation it can contribute to overall health and longevity. But, don’t think of it as a health drink. If you are so inclined, enjoy one glass of red wine for your health, and recognize the additional glasses are for witty comebacks and flawless dance moves.