Alcohol is fun and rewarding for a lot of us. So perhaps it is unsurprising that so much research and media attention has been directed toward the purported benefits of moderate drinking. We tend to want to believe that our culturally engrained habits are healthy.
But bubbling under the surface has been intense debate about the true merits of moderate drinking, and that has erupted over the past few months. A massive $100-million study investigating the health effects of moderate alcohol was terminated by the NIH in June on account of undue influence by the alcohol industry. And a global analysis of the health impact of alcohol use was released last month, ominously concluding that there is no safe level of alcohol. This has cast serious doubt on the popular notion that drinking moderately is good for you. Should we even be drinking alcohol at all?
I’ve avoided diving into this particular rabbit hole for a long time, because I wasn’t sure what to make of the literature, and because I wondered if my own biases might cloud my judgment. But this is too important and too timely an issue to ignore.
In this article, we will take a hard look into the relationship between alcohol and health. Why might alcohol be healthy? Why might it not be healthy? And what should we do about it? I know this is a bit of a longer article, but if you hang in there I think you’ll come away with a better understanding of the health effects of alcohol. And if you want to learn about a potentially better way to imbibe, don’t miss the podcast at the end with Todd White, a curator of natural wines (we’ll explain what we mean by natural wines later).
But first, let’s talk about alcohol in general: what the research seems to say about it, and what it really says.
What Do We Mean by Moderate Alcohol Consumption?
The perils of excessive drinking are well-established and unquestionable.
In 2016, alcohol use was the seventh leading risk factor for both deaths and disability-adjusted life-years (that’s public health speak for years that are spent in poor health or disability). Globally, alcohol use accounted for 2.2% of female deaths and 6.8% of male deaths. For people aged 18-49, alcohol ranks as the leading cause of death and disability-adjusted life-years.
But even so, the question of whether and how much we should drink remains unsettled. The reason for this ambiguity is that numerous long term observational trials have shown that light-to-moderate drinkers (approximately 1-2 units of alcohol a day) are generally healthier and live longer compared to heavy drinkers, but also compared to non-drinkers.
The relationship between alcohol use and mortality is often visualized in what has come to be known as a J-shaped curve (you can see it here). This means that mortality risk dips down with light consumption compared to abstention, then rises steeply as the mean daily dose increases.
However, the quality and plausibility of this evidence has long been questioned. Let’s begin by taking a deep dive into the observational evidence surrounding alcohol. You’ll quickly see why this is such a controversial question.
The Sick Quitter Effect
Fundamentally, the reason why moderate drinking has been given a green light is because people who consistently consume small amounts of alcohol seem to have more positive health outcomes than those who abstain. Makes sense! But are moderate drinkers healthier because of the ethanol in their diet?
Here’s a clue that might not be the case after all. Remember that famous J-curve for alcohol consumption? It appears not just for coronary artery disease, but also for health conditions for which it is not biologically plausible that alcohol ingestion would be helpful. For example, moderate drinkers are at reduced risk of deafness, hip fractures, asthma, and the common cold compared to abstainers.
Here’s another clue, which is even more telling: moderate drinkers are at reduced risk of alcoholic liver cirrhosis than abstainers. Yep, I think you can see where this is going.
Whenever we are looking at a pool of people who completely abstain from alcohol, this group generally includes a significant proportion of individuals who have quit drinking as they have gotten older – due to alcoholism, declining health, or interactions with certain prescription drugs. It is well-established that ex-drinkers, in particular, are at substantially higher risk of ischemic heart disease – the primary condition for which moderate alcohol consumption is purported to be beneficial! You can see how this would bias the data in a way that probably makes drinking small amounts of alcohol look better than not drinking at all. This is an example of reverse causation. It has been dubbed the “sick quitter” hypothesis in the context of alcohol consumption.
This phenomenon was recognized a long time ago in epidemiological studies of tobacco. In a current “non-smoker” category, you might have a mixture of individuals who have never smoked…and individuals who smoked two packs a day for three decades but who quit last year. Imagine what happens when you compare this group to current smokers, many of whom are not (yet) experiencing the health consequences of their habit. One could easily become convinced that quitting smoking causes lung cancer and that people who smoke are actually protected from the disease!
A recent systematic review illustrates the impact of this bias in the literature surrounding alcohol. Researchers analyzed 87 published studies on alcohol and all-cause mortality. The meta-analysis initially found that current “moderate” drinkers (less than two drinks per day) did indeed exhibit a lower rate of heart disease. But sure enough, when they took a closer look at the individual studies, they found that much of the abstainer pool included former drinkers and subjects who weren’t drinking due to health problems. In fact, only 13 of the 87 studies were free of this abstainer bias, demonstrating how pervasive this problem is. When the meta-analysis was adjusted for those factors, the protective effect of drinking vanished, and there was no statistically significant reduction in mortality for low-volume drinkers.
To be fair, some studies have found that the protective effect of moderate drinking lingers even after removing ex-drinkers from the analysis. However, excluding ex-drinkers may not fully resolve the problem of confounding, because we now know that people who have never drank differ systematically in other ways from current drinkers. That brings me to another problem.
Even when former drinkers are excluded from an analysis, non-drinkers tend to be less healthy as a group, for a plethora of reasons that are very difficult to fully account for in observational research. In general, non-drinkers have higher rates of self-reported poor health in adulthood, and it has been shown that developing a chronic disease early in life is associated with lifelong alcohol avoidance, suggesting that some people do not take up drinking in the first place because of pre-existing poor health.
One research team examined data on cardiovascular risk factors and their relationship to alcohol use from a telephone survey of over 200,000 adults in the USA. Out of 30 risk factors assessed, 27 of them were significantly more prevalent in non-drinkers than in light to moderate drinkers. These factors include things like being older, having less education, having less money, lacking access to healthcare or preventive health services, and comorbid health conditions like diabetes and hypertension. These are all variables that are not directly mediated by an absence of ethanol in the diet, but almost certainly have an impact on cardiovascular health and mortality.
Overall, this lends support to the argument that middle-aged people who drink moderately may be healthiest as a group not because of their alcohol consumption, but rather that they drink because they are healthy.
Cutting Through The Confounders
So how do we get around this?
Randomization would help, of course. In an ideal world, we would design a large controlled trial in which you randomly assigned people to different levels of alcohol consumption and then followed them for 30 years or so. That will obviously never happen due to cost, the impossibility of blinding/placebo, huge ethical concerns, managing adherence, and a million other reasons. So we are stuck working within the limitations of observational data if we want to understand the long term effects of alcohol.
Okay, from what we have seen so far, it seems using abstainers as a reference point is bound to make alcohol consumption look good by comparison. One way to dodge the epidemiological baggage associated with non-drinkers is to skip over that question entirely, and just compare different levels of consumption in current drinkers.
A recent analysis in the Lancet actually took that approach. The researchers wanted to try to identify what level of alcohol consumption was associated with higher risk. At what precise point, in other words, does that J-shaped curve start to tilt upward?
Researchers brought together data from 83 studies in 19 countries. The main analyses zeroed in on current drinkers, whose baseline alcohol consumption was divided into eight predefined groups, based on the amount (in grams) consumed per week.
They found that the threshold for lowest risk of all-cause mortality was at around 100 grams of alcohol per week. That is an upper limit of safety that is considerably lower than current standard definitions of “moderate” drinking upon which established guidelines are based. You can see a much flatter J-curve for all-cause mortality, suggesting less benefit for moderate consumption than previously estimated. In general, studies tend to find that the health benefits of moderate drinking are attenuated or even eliminated when they control for the types of confounders I have described here.
Before we try to make sense of this, we need to step back and better understand why moderate amounts of alcohol might be healthy in the first place – and why they might not be.
Health Effects – Possible Underlying Mechanisms
It was first observed in 1786, by William Heberden, that alcohol seemed to have ameliorative effects on the cardiovascular system, specifically relieving angina. Since then, countless studies have found that regular light consumption of alcohol is associated with reduced incidence of coronary artery disease. This protective effect seems to become evident at intakes of around 5-10 grams per day, with no advantage at higher intake, and ultimately greater risk with heavy consumption.
But to be clear, we don’t think that moderate alcohol consumption is healthy solely due to observational evidence – that would be ridiculous. There are a couple mechanisms through which alcohol might help the cardiovascular system.
Alcohol may keep platelets from sticking together and aggregating. This blood-thinning effect, rather similar to that of aspirin, would be expected to reduce the formation of blood clots in arteries, which is what causes heart attacks and other health complications associated with major blood vessel blockages.Additionally, alcohol raises high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels. HDL is popularly known as “good” cholesterol because it pulls excess cholesterol molecules away from the artery walls, a function known as cholesterol efflux. However, it is worth noting that there is now significant doubt about the long-term cardiovascular benefits of raising HDL – we wrote a blog a while ago on that subject if you want more info on that.
These effects on blood lipids and hemostatic factors are biologically plausible. But even if we fully accept that these benefits are real and meaningful, are they worth any possible risks that may come along with regular alcohol consumption?
Let me explain what I mean by that. Alcohol may lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, but seemingly at the cost of raising cancer risk, particularly in women. Alcohol is thought to boost estrogen levels, which is likely why it has such a strong association with risk of breast cancer.
In an analysis of two large prospective cohort studies, up to one drink a day in women contributed to a 13% higher risk of developing alcohol-related cancers, primarily breast cancer. In another study, women who drank 14 or more alcohol beverages weekly had a 33% higher chance of developing breast cancer than women who drank four or fewer beverages a week.People want to believe that what we do or what we ingest is either completely healthy or completely unhealthy, but that is seldom true. Everything comes with tradeoffs, and that certainly seems to be the case with alcohol. So how do we weigh these risks and benefits? Should you, in theory, accept a slightly reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, if it comes along with an increased risk of cancer?
An analysis published last month in the Lancet, the most comprehensive estimate of the global burden of alcohol use to date, sought to answer this question, at least from a public health standpoint.
The Global Burden of Diseases study analyzed patterns of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries from 1990 to 2016. They found, like other studies have, a mild protective effect exerted by small amounts of alcohol against ischemic heart disease.
But this was offset by a linear association of alcohol intake with cancer (meaning that higher doses of alcohol correlated with higher risk of cancer), as well as other diseases associated with alcohol consumption.
Here is their stark conclusion:
“We found that the risk of all-cause mortality, and of cancers specifically, rises with increasing levels of consumption, and the level of consumption that minimises health loss is zero.”
So What Can We Do?
Before we start throwing out our booze like it’s 1920, let’s step back and put some of these large analyses into proper context.
Alcohol-related mortality – and we’re talking about heavy drinking here – has been going up. Between 1999 and 2016, cirrhosis deaths rose by 65%, and annual deaths from liver cancer doubled.
Public health does not evaluate alcohol the same way they might assess French fries or processed meat. Alcohol is an addictive substance, and overconsumption comes with severe acute risks. Research like what we see in the Global Burden of Diseases is no doubt, in part, weighing the iffy and relatively small benefits of low level consumption against the risks of binging and excessive drinking, not to mention the dangerous behaviors that often accompany that. These are important considerations on a population level, especially given the aforementioned issues with the evidence supporting alcohol. But it may not be super relevant to you personally.
Let’s backtrack to the other Lancet analysis I cited earlier. The researchers employed a mathematical model to estimate that people who consumed between seven and 14 drinks per week had a lower life expectancy, at age 40, of around six months. Meanwhile, people who drank between 14 and 24 drinks per week were projected to lose around 1-2 years. Above 24 drinks per week, you start to see things really go downhill.
Similarly, let’s take a look at the graph of the weighted relative risk of alcohol by drinks consumed in the Global Burden of Diseases analysis. It does appear to be a largely linear (rather than J-shaped) relationship. But the increase from zero to one, and even between one and two, does not seem crazy high.
None of us has a life that is totally free of risk. I don’t have a statistical model for this, but it is entirely possible that my daily commute to the gym is a more perilous endeavor than my alcohol intake. I’m sure you can think of a number of relatively mundane activities in your life that come with a certain degree of risk. It becomes a judgment call based on the magnitude of the risk, and how much it is worth it to you.
That brings me to a final important point. Throughout this article, I have been discussing different levels of alcohol consumption as if it were merely a question of whether or not it makes us healthier. As if it were like choosing between brown or white rice, or between diet soda or regular soda. But if we are being totally honest, our investment in alcohol is totally unlike any other nutritional components. That is part of why this subject has been so difficult to study (and so challenging to write about!). Drinking moderately often occurs in a social context, with friends and family, in celebration, in good times.
I’m not going to pretend that alcohol is intrinsically healthy. But the bottom line is that those of us who are healthy enough to drink are likely to do so anyway – for reasons that are largely unrelated to health. So is there a way that we can continue to drink, that minimizes the apparent risks while maximizing any potential benefits associated with it?
We do know, for instance, that low-to-moderate consumption of red wine seems to have been historically associated with good health, or at least that it is possible to live a long healthy life while drinking that way. Additionally, red wine is a rich source of bioactive compounds which fight oxidative stress, cancer, and other maladies. In particular, polyphenols in red wine may augment the vascular benefits of alcohol, and combat the elevation in triglycerides that often accompanies alcohol intake. We can glean from this that red wine is perhaps one of the best, if not the best, choices as far as alcoholic beverages.
In our quest for an optimal way to drink, we came across a man who shares this mission and has made it his life’s work. That brings me to our guest this week.
In this episode of humanOS Radio, Dan talks with Todd White. Todd is the CEO and founder of Dry Farm Wines. Dry Farm Wines does not make wine – instead, the company curates wines from farms all over the world that are committed to natural winemaking practices with minimal intervention.
As the name of the company obviously suggests, all of these wines are dry farmed. Dry farming refers to growing grapes with no irrigation, which of course used to be the way that all wine was made. Dry farming tends to result in lower yield and smaller berries, but potentially a higher quality wine with a greater concentration of health-promoting compounds. One study found, for instance that non-irrigated grapes were about 30% richer in anthocyanins than irrigated counterparts. Why is this? It’s because excessive irrigation may dilute polyphenols by effectively waterlogging the grapes. That is no bueno because most of the health benefits that have been associated with wine are likely tied to these phytochemicals, which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They also contribute to the color, taste, and aroma of the product, which is why dry farming has been experiencing a bit of a comeback in the industry.
The word “dry,” of course, is doubly appropriate here, as it also alludes to a wine that has been fermented until there is no residual sugar. This was a major priority for Todd, as someone who follows a ketogenic diet.
The wines that you receive from Dry Farm Wines are distinguished in three major ways:
Low Alcohol Content (<12.5%)
We have established that the peak dose for beneficial effects of alcohol – to the extent that there is one – is likely lower than previous estimates. However Todd believes, like we do, that it is possible to enjoy alcohol and still live a healthy life. The dose, as with all things, is key here.
Dry Farm Wines only provides wines that contain between 10% to 12.5% alcohol. That way, you can drink a couple glasses with dinner, get a gentle buzz, and minimize any negative impact on your wellbeing and performance the next day.
This is huge if you have adopted a ketogenic diet. (Like practically everyone that I know of late)
As mentioned above, all wines are fully fermented, meaning that the yeast has gobbled up all of the sugar from the grape juice. Every bottle is lab-tested to ensure that there is no residual sugar (and that none has been added). Consequently, these wines are generally considered to be keto friendly.
All-Natural and Additive Free
Dry Farm Wines sources only from small-batch, sustainable farmers that employ traditional winemaking techniques and produce natural wines.
So what do I mean by natural wines? Well, most of us think of wine as being a very simple product, comprised of crushed grapes and the yeast that converts the sugars to alcohols. In truth, the vast majority of wines incorporate a dizzying array of additives and processing aids. Here is a list of more than 60 materials that are approved for production, treatment, or finishing of wine, under Title 27 of the Code of Federal Regulations in the US. If you scan through the list, there are a few that might raise some eyebrows. Oak chips. Egg white. Copper sulfate. Fish collagen. Milk proteins.*
You might be wondering why you need a subscription to Dry Farm Wines to find these natural wines. Why not just go to your local grocery store and check the ingredients label? Oh wait, there isn’t one. Okay, how about an ingredients list? Nope.
In the US, we generally do not see a nutrition label of any sort on wine bottles, because alcohol is not regulated by the FDA, for historical reasons that date back to Prohibition. Instead, it falls under the jurisdiction of the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Unlike with food, nutrition labels on alcohol are optional, which of course means that you will seldom see them. The industry has little incentive to be transparent about what ingredients are being incorporated in their products.
If you want to know the calories, sugars, and even the ingredients in a given alcoholic beverage, you pretty much have to guess, or contact the producer directly and hope they will enlighten you. At least, that’s the case in the US.
So herein lies the problem in a nutshell. The opaque nature of the industry, as well as the unusual way that the government treats alcohol compared to any other edible products, means that consumers usually do not have the information available to learn and make better choices.
Furthermore, locating “clean” wine with no sugar or additives is surprisingly challenging. Most of these artisanal wines are produced in small batches and aren’t likely to find their way into a retail establishment. Even if they are there, it’s not necessarily obvious which ones meet your standards. In this sense, Dry Farm Wines fills a very unique (and somewhat unfortunate) need in the marketplace.
That’s just a quick rundown of what Dry Farm Wines has to offer. To learn more about dry-farmed wines, and about Todd White’s vision, check out the interview below!
- Most of the items on this list are fairly innocuous, and a lot of them probably do not persist in appreciable amounts in the final product. So I personally wouldn’t sweat this too much. But hey, if you’d rather have a wine that is free of these substances, Dry Farm Wines has your back.
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Dan prepared for and conducted the interview, Ginny wrote the blog post, and Todd continues to curate natural wine for everyone!
Todd White - 00:06: As natural makers say, "Let the wine make itself." What's happening in commercial wines is you've got all kinds of alterations, additions, sometimes subtractions and just heavy processes that create a wine making style commercially that appeals to what has now become a global palate that wants sweeter, bolder, bigger, heavier, richer.
Kendall Kendrick - 00:29: HumanOS. Learn. Master. Achieve.
Dan Pardi - 00:38: Todd White, welcome to HumanOS Radio. Thanks for joining us.
Todd White - 00:42: Oh, man. Dan, I am super excited to be on your show today and have lots to talk about, including how to drink healthier wines.
Dan Pardi - 00:49: I have been interested in the subject of the effects of wine on health. Is it good for you? Is it not good for you? When I was exposed to what you guys do, a lot of things started to click but give us a little bit of background about you first.
Todd White - 01:00: Well, I've been a serial entrepreneur since I was 17. I became a bio hacker probably about a decade ago and always experimenting with fitness programs and better ways to eat but became pretty serious bio hacker in the last 10 years and really serious in the last five years, meaning employing all kinds of optimizations to the life experience, including ketogenic diet. As a result of that, and as a result of tuning up my nutritional programming in conjunction with what has happened in the wine world I found that I couldn't drink standard wines anymore. They were making me sick and causing terrific brain fog and hangovers and same effects that many people have. I think that it was attributed to both the tightening of my nutritional programming, getting completely off of sugar, as an example, and most commercial wines are filled with sugar. Then second of all, and in conjunction with, what's happened in the wine industry. Wines in the last 30 years have reflected largely what's happened in the rest of agribusiness. There's been mass consolidation and these wines are made in massive factories and they're filled with additives.
02:03: We saw a better, healthier way to drink. I've been a wine lover my entire life, but just couldn't drink standard wines anymore, and so just stumbled, quite by accident, upon these natural wines. You would think all wines are natural and we can talk about why they're not but and what makes these wines unique, anyway it was scratching my own itch. Since then, we launched the business has been endorsed by over a hundred national health leaders because we've taken this fanatical health approach to wine.
02:31: Initially, you've asked, "Is wine healthy or not healthy?" Well, that depends on what you drink and how much of it you drink, as to whether it's healthy or not. There's a ton of studies showing that red wine, in particular, because of the nearly 800 polyphenols contained in red wine. The polyphenols find their way into wine primarily from the skins and seed and so with white wine, white wine is just a free run juice. Red wine gets its color from contact with skins and hence, that's where most of the polyphenols come from.
Dan Pardi - 03:00: We see big wine, if you will, has followed a similar path as big food in a lot of ways. There's lots of consolidation. There is manipulation of the end-product towards more palatability which people like to drink and because of the strict protocol that you're using for your diet, you found that those wines were no longer tolerable so you were looking for a better solution for your own diet and you stumbled upon these more natural wines and changed your life.
Todd White - 03:24: When I discovered these wines, our wines are all naturally made but it's a little deeper than that. We also only recommend that people drink low alcohol wines. Alcohol is toxic and so the dosage really matters. We have a number of criteria that all wines must meet in order to be represented by us and there are only a few hundred winemakers in the world who make these wines. Most of them are in Europe. We do not sell any domestic wines.
03:50: Interestingly, when you mentioned the consolidation that's happened both in food production, as well as wine, a couple of interesting statistics. In domestic wine, 52% of all the wines manufactured in the United States are made by just three giant conglomerates. They hide behind thousands of labels and brands to confuse the consumer to have consumers believe that they are drinking from a Chateau or a farm house.
Dan Pardi - 04:16: My uncle, he's been a seller master for Kendall Jackson and for Beringer, and he works for a smaller wine manufacturer, Pech Merle, now. But I've got to see some of the behind the scenes operations. Often times, if you go up to Napa Valley you go to a tasting room that is designed to look like more of an old world experience or something that's really sensorially appealing. But then, you go across the street where the wine is actually made. Big steel barrels, it's a major operation. It's totally disconnect between what they want the customer to feel and then where the wine is actually made.
Todd White - 04:48: Right so you sell wine through romance and stories. That is how wine is sold.
Dan Pardi - 04:53: Yeah.
Todd White - 04:53: Look, there are 76 additives approved by the FDA for the use in wine making. Now most consumers don't know that. The reason they don't know about these additives is because it's the wine industry's dirty, dark secret. How they keep it secret is in conspiring with the government using tens and millions of dollars of lobby money. They have kept contents label off of wines. Wine is the only major food group without a contents label on it.
Dan Pardi - 05:20: Are these things like dyes?
Todd White - 05:21: Well there's 76 of them. They're anything from ammonia phosphate to coloring agents, to body agents to give wine texture, to fish bladders and egg whites. Here's the thing, you can't sell wine to Whole Foods and be a small, natural wine because you don't make enough volume. They just won't even talk to you. They only sell these massive factory products, even though, again, it's possible that they're organic. But that still doesn't have real impact on the chemicals being used in the cellar, in the wine making process. It can be confusing for consumers when they see a wine that's "organic" there're very few of those. But even if they do see one, that doesn't mean the wine is clean. That just means that the farming practices were chemical free.
Dan Pardi - 06:06: Interesting.
Todd White - 06:07: Yeah, so it doesn't mean that the wine making process is clean at all.
Dan Pardi - 06:10: Again, similar to what we see with food in our world, in order to ensure reliability of the supply chain to consistency of being able to deliver the products even shelf stability, probably not as relevant in this case since it gets better with age to a certain extent. But we see some of the same conditions here. Tell us about the wines that you seek out. What makes them interesting, unique, special and how are they different?
Todd White - 06:33: Yeah, I'll tell you exactly. Let me mention to you about the age ability on wine just so that everybody understands this point. 92% of all wines purchased are drank within 24 hours of purchase. Right.
Dan Pardi - 06:44: Really?
Todd White -06:44: Yeah. I mean most people are not aging their wine. They're buying it and drinking it immediately. So, those are just consumer facts. But there are some folks who buy wine for ageability but it's a very, very small audience. Let me tell you how these wines are different.
06:58: These wines are known categorically as natural wines. If your audience goes online and searches the term natural wines, they're going to find that there is a specific category of wines called natural wines. What that means, very specifically, is that natural wines are dry farmed. That means that there is no irrigation used in their farming. They are chemically-free farmed, or meaning that they're organic or biodynamic. Biodynamic is a prescriptive advancement of organic farming. They are fermented with native yeast that are indigenous to the vineyard in which the grapes are farmed. All grapes have native yeast on their skin. If you just pick a ripe bunch of grapes off of a vine and you throw it in a bucket, the skins will break. Sugar from the grape juice will come in contact with the yeast and it'll start fermenting right there in the buckets. You don't have to do a thing to it because their yeast on the skin of the grape that will create a natural fermentation. In natural wine making, all wines are fermented with those native yeasts.
08:03: Now here's what's happening in commercial wines. Commercial wines are fermented with genetically modified commercial yeast. The reason that winemakers use these commercial yeasts is because they are much more predictable and much easier to work with than a native yeast which is very temperamental and requires a lot of coddling. In the fermentation process, if you have a broken fermentation or other problems during the fermentation process it's a high risk to the spoilage of the wine, meaning that it's then not sellable. That's another reason why you can only make natural wines in these very small quantities. You've got fermentation with native yeast.
08:41: The next step is that there are no alterations, no additions or subtractions in the cellar. You got a completely natural wine making process. As natural winemakers say, "Let the wine make itself." What's happening in commercial wines is you've got all kinds of alterations, additions, sometimes subtractions and just heavy processes that create a wine making style commercially that appeals to what has now become a global palate that want sweeter, bolder, bigger, heavier, richer. That's not what natural wine taste like. That's not what real wine taste like. Those are manipulated commercial products.
09:18: In the natural wine making process this is just natural. Nothing in. Nothing out. This is very unique. It's very hard. It's very risky for the winemaker. Therefore, there's only a few hundred winemakers in the world who follow these protocol. Dry Farm Wines, my company, is the largest reseller of natural wines in the world. In the United States, you can find natural wines in a few markets, San Francisco, New York, Miami, a little tiny bit, Los Angeles. But most of the country is locked away from these wines because they don't sell. People don't understand what they are.
09:55: The great news about that is that they're very affordable. Our wines average $22.00 a bottle, which is extremely affordable for a fine, handcrafted wine product.
Dan Pardi - 10:06: So, you guys don't make your own wines, but you find wine that is produced under this natural method that fit your criteria. Then, you are a reseller of those wines. Because those are usually smaller batch, you are getting wines from these 100 manufacturers around the world, and then you're providing access to those in the subscription model that you have.
Todd White - 10:25: That's right. We procure, we don't make wine. As I mentioned earlier, we do not sell any domestic wines because there are no domestic wines that meet our criteria. Let me touch on a few other points that makes Dry Farm Wines very unique. We don't represent, nor will we accept, all natural wines. Just because a wine is naturally made, doesn't mean it meets all of our criteria. We don't sell any wines over 12 1/2% alcohol. We don't sell any wines that contain more than a gram of sugar, which is statistically sugar-free at the serving level. We don't sell anything that contains, that all of our wines are less than a gram per liter. As a result, they're also carb-free. This appeals to the ketogenic and the low-carb community in a significant way. In fact, among the endorsements that we have is Dr. Dominic D'Agostino, who's the leading ketogenic researcher in the United States, endorses our product because it will not take you out of ketosis, which is a large appeal to us and much of our audience.
11:30: We do not accept natural wines with more that 70 parts per million of sulfur, which is known on the wine bottle as sulfites. We lab test every one. The protocol for getting into our program is that, first of all, you can't even submit a sample to us if you don't meet the criteria I've already described. If you're not organically or biodynamically farmed, if you're fermenting with native yeast, if you're not naturally made, we won't even look at your wine.
Dan Pardi - 11:57: That's step one.
Todd White - 11:59: Right. That's step one. Then, we taste the wine. We reject about 60% of wines on taste. We just don't like the aesthetic. If we like the aesthetic, we then pull a lab sample. We won't taste anything over 12 1.2% alcohol. We're just not even seeing those wines. Then, we pull a lab sample. We send the lab sample to a certified [inaudible 00:12:19] who's looking for a whole bunch of criteria for us, including sugar, alcohol, micro toxins, sulfur, which is added sulfites. About 50% of the wines we send the lab will get rejected on one of those criteria.
12:36: This is the reason our wines have a very consistent, no hangover, no brain fog, a very consistent, super-clean buzz. The buzz quality is just lighter and more energized. In part, because you don't have any sugar. In part, because there are no additives. In part, because the alcohol is just a little bit lower.
Dan Pardi - 12:53: Tell us about the alcohol content versus other wines. What is a traditional range? What is the range you guys see for the products that you offer?
Todd White - 12:59: Well, categorically, the international standard that is called "wine" ranges from 7-24% alcohol. That is the international category of wine. We don't see wines below 9% that we think have a wine aesthetic. We don't buy anything over 12 1/2. Most commercial wines are 14 1/2 to 17% alcohol. There are two reasons for that. The primary reason is, it's a wine making style. The grapes are picked when they're sweeter, later in the ripening process, primarily in the United States because the vines are irrigated. This is a very important distinction. The name of our company is Dry Farm Wines. That's because irrigation is foundationally the beginning of the interruption of what we call "nature's logic". The moment that you irrigate a grapevine, you have intervened with nature's logic. Grapevines have been living for some 10,000 years without irrigation. In fact, irrigation didn't come to grape farming in California, which is where most of the United States wine is made, until 1973.
14:03: The reason you irrigate a grapevine is to fill the berry with water. That causes it to weigh more, causes a greater yield. The grapes are sold by the ton. Corporate greed, greed in general, has driven an unhealthier product. Here's why, when you fill a grape berry with water, via irrigation, it weighs more. It also dilutes the flavoring profile of the wine. Consequently, the grape has to get riper. Irrigation has a tremendous impact on the physiology of the ripening of the fruit. What happens is the fruit can't be picked until it's later and sweeter.
14:38: The higher the sugar is at the time of the picking of a grape will determine the outcome in the alcohol level. Let me explain why that's true. Here's how you make wine, you take grape juice and you inoculate it with yeast. The yeast eats the sugar. When the yeast eats all the sugar, then the fermentation is complete. The more sugar there is to eat, the more alcohol there is. When the yeast eats the sugar, the byproduct of that is ethyl alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is how wine is made. Consequently, the higher the sugar is in the berry at the time of picking will determine how high the alcohol level is.
15:17: Our wines, which are dry-farmed and have proper flavor development at lower sugars, consequently generally produce a lower alcohol wine.
Dan Pardi - 15:25: Interesting.
Todd White - 15:26: The reason that's important is because alcohol is toxic. Dosage matters. What we want is a lift and a gentle euphoria. I don't drink during the daytime and I don't recommend that other people do either. We drink wine around the dinner table. What that wine does, what alcohol in the correct dosage does, is provide you with that gentle lift, that euphoria, a lowering of your vulnerability window. This is the reason that we share and bond with people when we drink. It promotes love. I think anytime we can do anything that promotes love in the world, this is a great thing.
16:00: This is the beauty of alcohol, that gentle lift, when we have expanded creative expression and remaining cognitively connected. However, the problem is, when the alcohol dosage gets too high, which is the reason I don't drink spirits, when the alcohol dosage gets too high, we start to move away from cognitive connection and creative expression into the other side of the [inaudible 00:16:22], which is just not as attractive and certainly not as much fun. It's not as healthy.
Dan Pardi - 16:26: I think you're making some beautiful points here about the right dose in terms of the feeling of alcohol. It's such a dynamic topic. From a health prospective, there is evidence that it can be health-promoting. The doses are a lot lower than what people will drink if you drink. It's this complex subject where there is a health benefit that has been shown, through various ways that we've looked at it. The ancient Greeks, they only drank their wine diluted. They believed that only barbarians would drink unmixed or undiluted wine. It would bring out a type of behavior that would cause mayhem. The more ancient way of drinking was really more similar to how you're describing it. It's a lower alcohol content. It is mildly euphoric. It adds to connection, but it's not necessarily promoting wildness and total disconnect with yourself.
Todd White - 17:10: Yes. There's no question about it. Look, there are going to be glorious exceptions. I get drunk occasionally. It happens. Generally speaking, we know that excessive alcohol is poisonous. It can kill you. Many people die every year from alcohol poisoning. Not generally from drinking wine, but it's a toxic topic. Here's the problem, you mentioned this, the studies from these health benefits are showing, are at moderate, moderate levels, most people are not drinking that way. Here's why, most of us, alcohol is a domino drug. The more you drink, the more it pulls you in.
17:43: Here's the reason it's important to drink an inherently lower alcohol wine product, it's because most of us don't have "a" drink. Most of us have several drinks. I included, and including all of my friends. Nobody has "a" glass of wine, not even two. This is the reason that it's important. I'm going to drink throughout the night. I want to enjoy that experience and that product throughout the night. That's the reason it's important to drink an all natural, lower alcohol, sugar free product, in order to optimize performance.
18:15: Here's the other problem with commercial wines, the alcohol stated on a wine bottle, you might remember I mentioned earlier that we test for alcohol. Even though the label says 12 1/2 or below, we test for it anyway because by law, the label can be as much as a percent and a half different. If a wine says it's 14 1/2% on the label, you can be drinking 16% wine. There's a huge difference between 12% and 16% in terms of effect it has on your health and your brain.
18:45: Drinking a lower alcohol wine is the only way to get a healthy, low alcohol product. The only two alcohol beverages below wine are ciders, which almost always filled with sugar, and beer. Beer and ciders are your two categories of low alcohol below wine. I wouldn't recommend drinking either of them for reasons we don't have time to cover here. Anyway, low alcohol wine is your best choice if you're going to have a low alcohol product.
Dan Pardi - 19:13: Anything that will create the experience of reward in the brain will reinforce the desire to want to continue to consume that product. Whether that's marijuana, alcohol, palatable food. You're right! If something gives you that light buzz, its ability to encourage usage that is unhealthy is present. Another really important point that you've made is the natural way that people will drink wine, is a glass to maybe three per night. If those glasses tend to be higher in alcohol consumption and sugar, then you're adding a lot of additional calories. You're taking in quite a bit more alcohol.
19:46: If you're drinking anywhere close to bedtime and you're having higher alcohol consumption, you're also likely to impair your sleep. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. The first stage of central nervous system depression is excitation. If you're drinking a little bit, it can actually dis-inhibit you. Eventually, it can make you sleepy. What happens is, it lightens your sleep. That's the time you want to get your deep sleep. That's lightening your sleep. Even though it makes you go to bed, it's actually making you feel terrible in the morning. I would say drink early and having a lower alcohol wine is a big component to how you're going to feel the next day.
Todd White - 20:17: Yes. No question. I do 24-hour intermittent fasting. I only eat once a day. By design, I eat earlier in the day. I generally eat around 6:00. If you're going to drink, start earlier, meaning at dinner. Always eat and stay hydrated. You've got to eat with any kind of alcohol. The other thing is when wines, or alcohol, contains sugar, there's a super-charged interaction between that sugar and alcohol that leads to a lot more brain fog and just general disconnection.
20:46: Here's how you know that's true, if you drink a margarita, or you drink a shot of tequila, the difference in the effect that tequila will have on you is more negative if you drink the margarita, than just the shot. Same thing in wine. We reject quite a few wines that we initially like the aesthetic. It comes back and they have sugar in them. Even as a professional, I can't always taste it. I can feel it. If I eat sugar, I can feel its effect on my brain. I'll know immediately that wine has sugar in it, if it's high enough.
Dan Pardi - 21:17: You said that there's a gram per liter. How many liters are in a bottle of wine?
Todd White - 21:21: It's not a gram. We will accept anything up to a gram. Most of our wines are less than half a gram per liter. A liter, a standard wine bottle is 750 ml. a liter is a bottle and a third. If you added another 250 ml, you would have a liter.
Dan Pardi - 21:41: Less than a gram of sugar per bottle.
Todd White - 21:43: Like fraction, .1, .2. It's statistically sugar free. That's for our wine. That's not true of all natural wines, either. That's true of the wines we test and accept. The over-consumption and habitual consumption of sugar, we believe, is a cause of most chronic illnesses in our country.
Dan Pardi - 22:04: It's not a bad place to put focus to the degree that added sugar is easily increase calorie intake, and to the degree that excess of calorie intake is contributing significantly to the obesity epidemic, to the degree that the obesity epidemic has many related [inaudible 00:22:19] morbidities and seems to be an inscrutable problem in our world today. You're right, there are notable health experts that say this is one of the biggest concerns for the planet, is this public health concern. Sugar is something that is absolutely part of the discussion about, particularly refined, added sugars to products. Make them more palatable, promote overeating, add a lot more calories. For comparison, your wines have less than a gram of sugar per bottle, with the range for sugars that are commercially manufactured.
Todd White - 22:46: 20 times that amount, 15-30 grams a liter. These are not tests that we have run or promoting. These tests are available online. These comparisons of companies who have done testing. If your audience is interested in the topic, if they do a search, one of the top searches will actually name brands. We don't name brands and are not interested in getting into that nonsense. Many common household name brands the audience would know about, these tests have been published online.
23:13: The other thing on domestic wines that, interestingly, glyphosate has been outlawed in Europe. Glyphosate is the active chemical in Roundup. Roundup is the number one used herbicide in U.S. vendors. Last year a study was done from three California appellations. 100% of the wine tested had glyphosate present in them from three appellations, both from organic and non-organic [inaudible 00:23:41]. The speculation is that the glyphosate is getting in the vine and into the fruit through irrigation, because the way Roundup is applied in a vineyard is not the same way it's applied, say, in a wheat field. In wheat, they spray it from above. In a vineyard, it's applied down at the ground level. This concept of having overspray from one farm to another, again, for a non-organic farm overspraying to organic farm, is not really very feasible. It's not likely that it's happening that way. It's more likely that glyphosate is getting in the wine through irrigation.
24:15: Also, the other thing, these bio-diverse farmers, these kind of hippies, they don't make a lot of money because the wine is not expensive. They can't make a lot of it because of the techniques that they use. They're just activists of the land. They have a philosophical approach to farming and how they think the world should be. One of the things that they're concerned about and focused on are living soils. We know that living soils are filled with billions of organisms that have an effect on our micro-biome The far-reaching complexities of going back to nature and living by nature's logic, by the design of the planet in its whole form. All of these things are connected. It's just really important.
Dan Pardi - 24:56: I'm always thinking to myself, "The hippies had it right. Living according to the laws of nature."
Todd White - 25:00: Nature's logic. Yes.
Dan Pardi - 25:01: How many people that drink wine that are listening investigate how much sugar and alcohol is in every bottle you drink? You usually look at the label. Is it pretty? In your case, it's complying with rules you would like to adhere to. Then, you could drink, working within some confines that you're comfortable with. You're getting in the wine you want to take in. We made, for my company HumanOS, a course on the traditional Mediterranean diet, which I'm favorable toward, because the evidence that supports its health is robust. A big part of that diet is moderate wine consumption. In the skins we find anthocyanin and stilbenes. In skins and seeds we find catechins and proanthocyanidins and flavanoids. We know that these have a really potent effect on blood pressure regulation, and on sleep quality, cancer suppression, even clearing out senescent cells. Flavanoids are really powerful on that. Quercetins, apigenin, fisetins.
25:52: As soon as I heard about your concept, I immediately thought, the wine that they were drinking on Sardinia, and Icaria, so the women would take in about 5-25 grams per day, men 10-50, was these dry farm wines. They're not drinking mono-cropped, additive included wines. If we're thinking about the health attributes of this diet and this dietary pattern, we're really thinking about the wines that you're offering.
Todd White - 26:12: Yes. The unique thing about us, Dan, is we're the only health-quantified wine merchant in the world. That's true because we're fanatical about our health. We're fanatical about what we drink. We don't drink anything we don't sell. We only drink what we sell. The fact is, this is not a marketing message. This is how we live. We got in this business because I discovered this process and I felt so much better. I shared it with some friends. They were like, "Oh, wow! This is completely different." Then we shared it with more people and it became a business. We're super-fanatical.
26:46: Listen, I want to make an offer to your audience to try our wines. We'll give them a bottle for a penny. They can find that offer, I'm sure you'll make a note of this in your show notes, but they can find that offer at dryfarmwines.com/humanos, for a penny bottle. If they'd like to follow us or look for us, we're all social media. We are Dry Farm Wines. Anyway I can be of service to your audience, they can reach me at todd, t-o-d-d- @dryfarmwines.com.
Dan Pardi - 27:17: I love businesses that arrive out of somebody finding a solution for a problem that they had, and then having it grow. It's filling a need. What you guys have is providing a great service. It's been great to talk to you today and hear more about your perspective on the product. I have personally tried your wines and they taste terrific. They actually taste a little bit different. I really enjoy them. I'm an advocate. Thank you again for coming on to the show and talking about what you do.
Todd White - 27:43: Awesome, man. I really appreciate you having me on today. Live healthy. Live your best life.
Kendall Kendrick - 27:49: Thanks for listening and come visit us soon at humanos.me