I’m confident that you will agree with me when I say you have heard about wine’s health benefits and how it aids in heart health and longevity. I’m also certain that you know Islam prohibits the consumption of alcohol in every form, including wine, and that every Muslim trusts Allah’s ﷻ wisdom and keeps away from it.
But what is it that encourages some health professionals to recommend a limited quantity of red wine to people despite its known harmful effects? Let’s find out if this controversial beverage is worth all the glory it receives!
What Makes Wine Healthy?
(There are no proven links between wine and health benefits. The following benefits are from the reports of a few studies that have shown mixed results.)
Wine is rich in polyphenols, natural compounds that can act as antioxidants, and its most accredited polyphenol is resveratrol. Resveratrol is said to reduce blood clotting, reverse atherosclerosis (build-up of fat and cholesterol in the arterial walls) by increasing the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and removing the bad cholesterol (LDL), and prevent damage to the arteries, thus possibly improving the heart’s health and maintaining the blood pressure. It is also likely to hinder the growth of cancerous cells. A few research studies show that resveratrol may reduce insulin-resistance in type-2 diabetes, and could also have anti-inflammatory properties which help ease muscle spasms and stiffness in arthritis. There are some reports that state its role in slowing the progress of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s by promoting the degradation of the plaque (associated with the condition) in the brain.
In digestion, wine’s polyphenol content can activate the release of saliva, succinic acid in it can trigger the release of gastric juices, and ethanol can activate the release of bile. It is said to have probiotic effects as well. However, all these benefits are likely to become ineffective because the phenolic content in wine retards digestion by interfering with the action of digestive enzymes.
Nonetheless, even these unestablished advantages are beneficial only when consumed in very limited amounts. However, the consequences are dire, undoing every little benefit mentioned above, and adversely affecting those same bodily functions multiple times over.
Is Wine Truly Healthy?
“They ask you about intoxicants and gambling. Say: In them is great sin and [yet, some] benefit for people. But their sin is greater than their benefit…”[Qur’an 2:219]
Wine is an alcoholic (intoxicating) beverage, and alcohol is recognized for its endless notorious properties. The most popular ones amongst them, from those discovered and proven so far, are stated below.
- When a person consumes alcohol, the activity of their brain responsible for regulating inhibitions is suppressed. This causes them to shed their inhibitions and behave highly uncharacteristically of their own selves, more often than not making them regret their actions when sober. This also leads to people committing major crimes like rapes and murders.
- Alcohol depresses the action of excitatory receptors and facilitates the inhibitory neurotransmitters, both of which are involved in around 80% of neuronal circuitry in the brain. This compromises the majority of the brain’s functions, which can be seen commonly in a drunken person getting drowsy, slurring in their speech, failing to balance while walking, or losing their thought-processing and decision-making abilities – and accidents caused by drunk drivers are not unheard of!
- People indulge in alcohol to let go of stress, and it’s true to a degree because alcohol does reduce stress. However, what’s less known is that alcohol disrupts the stress-response system in the long run, triggering additional anxiety and other stress symptoms in the same people.
- Alcohol increases the production of endorphins and dopamine in the brain, which act as natural painkillers and simulate a feeling of euphoria. This causes a heightened desire in people to drink more and frequently in order to recreate that (false) feeling of ecstasy. This, in addition to the previously mentioned effects of alcohol, where the key functions of the brain like impulse control and rational assessment are impaired, causes recklessness in the drinkers and they continue to drink to satisfy their desires despite being aware of the consequences.It is because of this addictive characteristic of alcohol that even a small amount of the drink is said to be destructive, as the proverb goes, “In the beginning, a man takes a cup of wine… then the first cup takes a second, then the cup of wine takes the man.”
- In contrast to the benefits of a few of the wine’s components on the heart we saw earlier, alcohol is multiple times more damaging to the heart. At low levels, it causes the blood vessels to relax, and at higher levels, it constricts them – both of which affect the blood pressure negatively. When the blood vessels are constricted, the heart needs to work harder, thus leading to hypertension, and hypertension opens the door to a number of other diseases. When the blood vessels are relaxed, it lowers the blood pressure, which could lead to a stroke. Cardiomyopathy and arrhythmias are a couple of other heart problems caused by alcohol.
- Another influence of this drink is the conversion of glycogen in the liver to glucose, increasing the blood glucose level, which results in an increased production of insulin and an increased loss of glucose in the urine, all leading to hypoglycaemia and, consequently, fatigue.
Cancer, damage of the stomach, kidney, liver and other organs, and the risk of diabetes and obesity (because of the high sugar content) are amongst several other proven ill effects of wine and alcohol. Risks are exceedingly high when compared to the possible advantages, which is why major health organisations like the American Heart Association do not recommend wine for improving health.
Moreover, Allah ﷻ has always looked out for the well-being of His creations. It’s easy for us to go down in the Shaitan’s trap and fall weak in front of our desires. By prohibiting alcohol, He ﷻ has completely kept us away from the destruction of our own self and of those around us.
Then How Do We Reap the Benefits?
Remember, Allah ﷻ will not deprive us of even the tiniest benefits present in all that he has prohibited. He has provided halal alternatives, and it is up to us to seek those! All the benefits of wine can be achieved from plenty of other food sources.
Resveratrol, the primary reason why wine is said to be beneficial, comes from the grape skin that wine is made from; so choose the healthy and halal alternative and drink grape juice, or even better, eat the fruit! Succinic acid can be found in broccoli, rhubarb, sugar beets, sauerkraut and various cheeses. Instead of ethanol to stimulate bile production, make garlic, kale, celery and radish a part of your diet. And probiotics? There’s always yoghurt!
So, would you still choose wine for your health?
“O you who have believed, indeed, intoxicants, gambling, [sacrificing on] stone alters [to other than Allah], and divining arrows are but defilement from the work of Satan, so avoid it that you may be successful.”[Qur’an 5:90]
Written by: ZSA
Edited by: The Editorial Team
© The Islamic Reflections Blog
- Jackson R., 3rd ed., Wine Science: Principles and Applications, Elsevier Inc.