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From table... to bed: the relationship between wine and health, and wine and sexuality

Wine, in moderate doses, helps cardiovascular diseases. And, it is a positive element in building social relationships
Symposiums in Ancient Greece

The relationship between wine and health, and the implications linked to cardiovascular diseases, are increasingly at the centre of Community policies, which have for some time now placed alcohol in their sights, arriving to propose, like that by now famous case of Ireland, to put a health warning on the label notifying the health risks associated with the consumption of alcohol. A health issue, on which, as we have frequently written, there is no absolute truth, but hundreds of studies to support various theses. Surely, wine, in its very long history, has crossed and marked entire civilizations, becoming today a strong element of cultural characterization, especially in the Mediterranean countries, and assuming a myriad of different meanings, in every area of life, from the table ... to sexuality, as told by the clinical sexologist Marcello Acciaro and the cardiologist Giuseppe Sabino from the talk show on “Vino, salute ed eros”, which closed the “Porto Cervo Wine & Food Festival”.
“In 1990, a professor in Bordeaux, Serge Renaud, comparing the populations of the United States and France, discovered that the incidence of vascular diseases among the French was significantly lower, despite a diet high in saturated fat and wine. It is the famous paradox of Bordeaux, which suggests that wine is the distinction between the two lifestyles because, in addition to ethanol, it contains polyphenols, natural antioxidants, which may have the ability to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular diseases” recalls Professor Giuseppe Sabino. “Curiosity has grown over time, as have studies on the subject, which have now demonstrated how limited amounts of alcohol rebalance the fractions of cholesterol, reducing the bad and increasing the good, with a reduction in the risk of contracting the cardiovascular disease and atherosclerosis, two of the most serious public health issues in Western countries. It also increases insulin sensitivity, reducing blood glucose concentration and reducing the risk of diabetes”.
Another historic turning point occurred in 2018 when a study on alcohol and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the population of drinkers was published in the “Lancet”, revealing a strange J curve derived from the relationship between the two parameters: assuming 2 -300 grammes of alcohol per week, there is, in fact, a reduction in cardiovascular events compared to those who do not drink alcohol. The effect then fades as the doses are increased, with a significant increase in mortality due to cardiovascular diseases. In this sense, we can say that drinking wine is a double-edged sword, because small doses are protective, but larger quantities are extremely dangerous”, the cardiologist continues. “There are variables to consider, such as the type of alcoholic beverage, because studies on wine show that its consumption restores our heart’s sleep/wake rhythm and is statistically associated with a healthier lifestyle. Another variable is the method of consumption: if drinking moderate amounts of alcohol during the week is beneficial, drinking the same amount in one evening is toxic”.
Finally, “in 2021, a lifestyle and nutrition study demonstrated how the Mediterranean Diet, which includes wine, leads to a 38% reduction in cardiovascular events in patients already suffering from cardiovascular disease, something that no type of drug can do. In fact, there is no evidence to suggest complete abstinence from alcohol, and this also applies to those who have had a cardiac event, especially if associated with a healthy lifestyle, but it is not recommended to invite alcohol to drink to prevent the onset of cardiovascular disease”, concludes Professor Giuseppe Sabino.
However, as previously stated, wine is so involved in our daily lives that even sexuality, if not from today, then from Ancient Greece, has a lot to do with Bacchus, as clinical sexologist Marcellus Acciaro explains well in his speech. “The concept of health has not only to do with the absence of disease, but with mental, physical and social well-being, including sexual well-being. In this sense, sex has always triggered repression, as if it didn’t exist. A study of the early 2000s, on 900 women of France and Italy, of all ages, taken from Willy Pasini’s book “Il cibo e l’amore” (Food and love), identifies the relationship between food and sex, showing interesting aspects: 73% of women eat without feeling hungry and in 28.8% of cases, to combat anxiety. Similarly, 53% of women have sex without feeling like it, compared to just 29% of men.
At this distance, in the approach to the table and to sex, between men and women, first and foremost, different culinary tastes correspond. “Among men wine, coffee, wild-caught, beer, mature cheeses, shellfish, spices drive, while among women the favourite foods include sweets, fruit, Champagne, fruit juices, mineral water, pasta, yoghurt”. What is certain, however, is that “the evolution of humanity, as of any living species, has always been guided by the relationship between reproduction and nutrition, for this reason, we always move between food and sex, and for this reason today a table well set helps from all points of view, gives pleasure. Even for sex, the setting is important, with Italians preferring the bed, without daring too much”.
Furthermore, food has a direct relationship with the most beautiful aspect of sexuality, the orgasm. “The orgasmic curve was defined by Masters and Johnson, after World War II, as an arousal phase, followed by a plateau phase and then by the orgasmic peak. However, something was missing: desire, because first of all you need to desire a relationship, and even if aphrodisiac food doesn’t exist, there are foods that influence on desire. The oyster is one of these, mostly for the gestures that accompany its consumption, but also shellfish and truffles”.
Moving on to wine, which is part of humanity's history, “it has a social value that always fluctuates between the positive values of drinking society and the negative values associated with excesses. In this sense, wine serves many functions: it is comforting because we assume wine when we are depressed or melancholy, Sappho considered it the supreme comfort to the melancholy of life; it is restorative because after a lost game, or even a war, or simply after a long working day, it takes on a positive connotation; it helps people’s creativity; it can be hedonistic, it brings joy, it is jovial; it is convivial, it facilitates conversation, it helps to the relationships between people, but it is also an initiation rite. When it comes to the relationship with Eros, wine is disinhibiting; it activates the spring of disinhibition, but the real issue is defining the line between creative conviviality and malevolent disinhibition”, continues the sexologist.
“Wine is also seductive, Ovid recommended it as an instrument of conquest. We can say that, unlike spirits, it is good for love because it burns everything instantly, depriving you of the pleasure of disinhibition. The interesting thing is that wine consumption has almost always been prevented by women, who are now regaining possession of it: a woman who drinks is no longer considered unseemly, as it once was. The history of female wine relations almost always follows the same curve of sexual repression, only courtesans, devoted to pleasure, could drink it, but today female emancipation has changed everything, thanks to the pill revolution as a contraceptive, taking possession of one’s sexuality. In men, on the other hand, alcohol is a solvent of the “Superego”: it increases desire, but can make you lose your erection. Love, however, like wine, must be uncorked and enjoyed”.
The impact of moderate or excessive alcohol consumption on sexuality, concludes Professor Acciaro, “is still unclear, but we have one certainty: wine is good for women’s sexual arousal, both in physical and measurable terms, and subjectively. The regular and moderate use of red wine is linked to the better sexual health of women as demonstrated by the study “Regular Moderate Intake of Red Wine is Linked to a Better Women’s Sexual Health”, by Nicola Mondain and others, according to which, in general, women with moderate red wine consumption have a higher sexual health index.”

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