Now by no means am I a seasoned wine drinker, but I do have a vested interest in the physiological, and in particular the glycaemic response associated with drinking wine. The effect that ‘sugar’ has on our body depends on several factors including the glycaemic load i.e. how much carbs/sugar is consumed in one sitting, and the nutritional composition of the meal i.e. is the sugar combined with protein and fat? Sugar can be consumed in many forms including table sugar, in confectionary and soft drinks, as well as through natural sources such as honey and fruit, and through the ingestion of wine…but as you’re about to learn, how much sugar depends solely on the wine!
Note the type of wine you’re consuming
The variety of wines are many, and the sugar content differs depending on the type. As you no doubt already know, wines come in different forms including white, red, pink and sparkling. White wines can be sweet, dry and sparkling, and offer further subtle attributes including light citrus twangs, light herbal and grassy notes and rich, creamy and nutty flavours. Red wines can be savoury reds and Fruity reds offering black pepper gravely, smoke and tobacco, truffle forest and clay cured meat notes.
Dry wines have less sugar
Interestingly though, white wines differ significantly in their sugar content, with dry wines containing far less sugar per millilitre. In fact the sugar content of a wine basically determines the classification i.e. a wine with a sugar content, or a ‘residual sugar’ (RS) of close to 1 is considered dry, whilst an RS of around 4 is considered off dry.
Residual Sugar (RS)
RS is usually measured in grams of sugar per litre of wine, with the lowest RS around being about 1g/l. There will always be at least 1g/l RS in wine because some sugars such as pentose are unfermentable. Compare this to a sweet wine which may contain anything above 45g/l with Eszencia, a form of Tokaji containing in excess of 450g/l and some vintage wines reaching just shy of 1000g/l! So the sugar content of a wine is well worth considering when controlling blood sugar levels and weight. It is prudent for Diabetics to note the RS value of a wine, especially if they drink it regularly because the combined consumption of sugar and alcohol is not conducive to long term health and limiting the onset of ‘opathys’ such as neuropothy, nephropathy and retinopathy.
How does the sugar content of wine effect weight
Body weight is heavily affected by the sugar content of a food or drink. Many people can’t get their head around how sugar can be stored as fat, or adiposity to use it’s scientific term. When we consume sugar, especially in liquid forms such as wine, our blood sugars rise (known as the glycaemic response) which in turn causes a few hormonal responses. Elevated blood sugars cause Insulin to rise and glucagon to decline, consequently insulin unlocks the muscle and bodily tissue to enable sugar to enter. However like anything our muscles and organs reach saturation point, meaning any excess is left in circulation and thus needs to be stored. The liver has the capacity to store approx 100g of glucose in the form of glycogen, whilst the muscles can store 500g of glycogen. Once the liver and muscle reaches saturation point it needs to convert glucose (sugar) to triglycerides and fatty acids via glucose-6-phosphate and a process known as phosphorylation, these fatty acids etc are then used for energy…or stored as fat.
So next time you’re swilling and swallowing your wine, spare a quick thought for the type of wine your drinking, and the effects it may be having on your body. Enjoy any wine in moderation, but for best results and optimal health…try to keep it dry!
Livestrong.com, (2013). How is excess glucose stored? Retrieved 17th October, 2013, from http://www.livestrong.com/article/264767-how-is-excess-glucose-stored/
Official Journal of the European Union, (2009). Commision Regulation. Retrieved 17th October, 2013, from http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2009:193:0060:0139:EN:PDF
Visual.ly. (2013). Different types of wine. Infographic. Retrieved 17th October, 2013, from http://visual.ly/different-types-wine