How Much Wine Should I Drink?

How much alcohol should we consume? We have all heard that there are health benefits associated with low level alcohol consumption, like drinking a glass or two of red wine each day. Indeed, I have made this suggestion in my blogs and in many of the books I have written. While we do know that alcohol is, in and of itself, toxic to nerve cells, the scientific literature would tell us that there is decreased risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s disease in individuals who consume small amounts of alcohol each day.

In a new study appearing in the journal Scientific Reports, researchers again attempted to unravel the facts as it relates to the beneficial effects of alcohol. Before you get put off by this study’s somewhat compelling (Beneficial effects of low alcohol exposure, but adverse effects of high alcohol intake on glymphatic function) title, allow me to explain.

The researchers looked at the effects of low dosages versus high dosages of alcohol on the ability of the brain to clear itself of debris. The study was performed in laboratory mice and concluded that there was actually a benefit associated with low dosage alcohol consumption in comparison to no alcohol consumption or high alcohol consumption, in terms of the brain’s “glymphatic function.” This is the brain’s ability to clear itself of potentially harmful debris.

The low dosage administered to the mice was 0.5 g/kg, and that equates to approximately 1 to 2.5 glasses of wine, depending on body weight. The high dose alcohol administration which was associated with worsening function of the brain’s glymphatic system was three times as high as the low dose. Interestingly, the authors indicated that this was a dosage that would correlate with “binge drinking.”

So the message is clear from this animal research. There seems to be a sweet spot in terms of alcohol consumption whereby low level exposure is better than none. Meanwhile there is a corresponding detrimental response from high consumption.

I hope this study provides some helpful information in terms of this commonly asked question.

FYI: If you’re looking for a great source of organic, all natural wine, then Dry Farm Wines is a great option.

  • Lesliann Tomich Furcht

    What is the range in ounces depending on body weight?

    • frankjenson

      For the low dose, mice were given 0.5g alcohol per kg body weight. That’s 35g for a 70kg person, or about 12 ounces of wine per day for a 155 pound person. I’m not saying that’s your weight! Just an example. Two glasses of red wine will add 250 calories and 8 grams carbs to your food consumption each day.

      • AnnieLaurie Burke

        It’s always interesting to see comments about “calories” in wine. If you research calorie/carb content of dry wine, you will notice a great deal of inconsistency, with claims of everything from 0 to 4 carbs per glass. Two glasses of dry red wine are very unlikely to contain 8 grams of carbs. The vendor that Dr. P mentions, Dry Farm Wines, tests their wines and guarantees that the wines they sell have no more than 1 gram of sugar per liter (approximately 34 ounces, or more than a bottle). Some sources that list the higher value for carbs note that very little of the carbs they claim are in dry wine are sugar. Wine does not contain starch or fiber, so what, then, are they?

        Calories in wine are measured in terms of alcohol combustion in the lab. What are the calories as they are metabolized in a human, as opposed chemical combustion in a bomb calorimeter? They are not carbs (sugar, starch, fiber) if the wine is dry; they are not protein; they are not fat. Often, one hears the erroneous assertion that wine is digested as “sugar”. This is not correct — ethanol is the product of bacterial digestion of sugar, not the other way around.

        It’s also curious that many sources that list caloric info note that the nutrient breakdown is NOT listed on wine labels because “they” don’t want people to think of wine as food (although it is certainly treated that way in many traditional cuisines that take a less hysterical view of alcohol than does the US). Yet, the nutrient breakdown IS listed on a can of soda….

        • frankjenson

          Thanks for the clarification. From experience alone it makes sense that a sweeter wine has more calories and carbs than a dry wine.

  • Glen Greenberg

    So there was an old funny story that alcohol makes you smarter , to prove it , everybody knows alcohol kills brain cells , so it stands to reason upon taking a drink the weaker brain cells would die first so the stronger brain cells survive , and the proof , when you drink you feel smarter , maybe as Shakespeare said , the truth IS often said in jest

  • Yiratshamayim

    but it increases risk of breast cancer and likely prostate

  • Wil Bremers

    This is a study done on mice not humans. Humans can and often do react different from mice on the same substances. So beware of this before concluding that alcohol is healthy when taken moderately.

  • lvzee

    Since there are approximately 5 glasses of wine per bottle, the study considers a moderate male drinker as someone who has close to 1/2 (.5) bottle per day and a heavy drinker to be somone who has a bottle and 1/2 (1.5) per day.

  • frankjenson

    Important to note that ethanol alcohol was used in the study, not wine. Beer would also be valid to drink as well as any other alcoholic beverage as long as the sugars, carbs, and other ingredients don’t violate a person’s nutritional regimen. As noted, there are probably other beneficial ingredients in wine, however the the study was solely about alcohol.

  • Krikit

    Does it depends on the kind of wine…cheap vs expensive, tannins, etc.? Thank you-

  • joanna

    Hi David, I love red wine but I am careful not to overdo it. Here in England a glass of wine usually means 175mls. Is this the size glass you are talking about?

    • David Perlmutter

      Yes, about 5-6 oz. is a standard glass of wine.

      • Lloyd Agte

        Whohoo. Glad you finally clarified that, Doc. The typical short-stemmed wine glass holds 6 oz. level full, which means about 5 oz. serving size. Been looking for your definition of “glass” since “Grain Brain” and “Brain Maker” when in the latter permission for men was jumped from one glass to two (still one for the ladies). That is the size I have been using but must confess to cheating to a third or forth glass at times (I blame Malbec!). For my brother’s 80th birthday (I had sent him a copy of “Grain Brain” a few months before and he became a fanatic advocate of it and his health improved and he lost 40 pounds.) So for his birthday I found in a thrift store three huge (maybe around a half-gallon capacity?
        ) with the pedestal foot and gave one to him, one to his wife and one to her sister so they each could have a glass of wine and still stay on your diet.

  • Elwood P. Suggins

    I did the math more times than I care to repeat. When did 35 grams become 12 ounces? 35 grams is 1.2 ounces. That’s a shot of wine, not a glass of wine.

  • Jeanette

    Dr. Perlmutter you recommend moderate wine and coffee consumption for good brain health. I do not consume either since I do not like the taste of either. Is there any other way I can get the key ingredients that are so vital for our brains? Would using resveratrol and whole coffee fruit concentrate be good substitutes? How much of each and where would I get each of these supplements? Thank you for sharing your knowledge with all of us! I’m very grateful!!!!

    • Ann Reed

      You might want to look into the benefits of tea; real tea, rooibos, maybe others. I can’t make any claims as I really don’t know exactly what you’re wanting, but black tea has oodles of benefits. Just make sure to avoid bottled tea drinks and sugars.

  • Elwood P. Suggins

    Ahhhh… I hate it when I miss the obvious. Of course, wine is not 100% alcohol. Guess I need a glass of wine to flush out my brain.

  • mary zaudtke

    I have never been a person who could drink much but as I have gotten older I went down to 2 glasses before I would get a hangover. Then I did some neurofeedback that is to optimize brain functioning. Now i am down to 1. I am assuming that as we age the tolerance is because our body cannot process it as quickly and partially because the brain is not able to clean out the brain as efficiently. But I am curious about how neurofeedback can cause a hangover if former alcoholics drink, called the Penniston flu.

  • Les_uk

    Recent research at the Medical Research molecular biology lab at Cambridge University found that acetaldehyde – a toxic chemical produced when alcohol breaks down in the body – damages the DNA of stem cells in the blood, causing mutations which can cause cancer. This confirms the well documented link between alcohol and various cancers; as well as liver diseases, heart disease etc. The Chief Medical Officer of the NHS has stated categorically that there is no safe amount of alcohol. And Cancer Research UK states that this research “highlights the damage alcohol can do to our cells”.

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