Time to Break out the Bubbly

It's as much a tradition as watching the ball drop on Times Square...

Each year, millions of Americans celebrate New Year's Eve with a glass of champagne.

In fact, Americans purchase more than 39 million bottles of champagne each year in the week leading up to New Year's Eve. And with the average cost of $44 a bottle, that's at least $1.7 billion in sales.

Now, there are a lot of sparkling wines, but only some of those are Champagne. European law states that to have the designation of champagne, winemakers must bottle the wine within 100 miles of the Champagne region of France.

Keep in mind, mid- to late-December is also the best time of year to buy champagne. That's because many stores deeply discount their champagne and other sparkling wines to attract folks during the party-planning rush.

But with all the health news out there about carbonated drinks, alcohol, and how each affects your body, should you really take that wine flute?

If you remember, a few years ago, the media reported on a study that boasted better memory if you drink champagne. There were a ton of news headlines saying how happy we were that we could indulge in as much sparkling wine as we wanted.

What they failed to mention was that the study itself was limited and only focused on rats. That makes it a less-than-stellar study.

However, there are plenty of other reasons to enjoy a glass this holiday season... or really, any other time of the year.

First off, we know that champagne and other sparkling wines contain polyphenols like you find in other wines. These fight inflammation. And in one study out of Barcelona, the sparkling wine cava appeared to lower markers of cardiac inflammation in men.

Here's the thing... carbonated drinks, including champagne, have been on our radar this year. We've noticed a considerable uptick in the number of people in our lives and around the office who now drink sparkling water.

That led us to two big questions: Does the carbonation affect gastro health, and does it make you hungrier?

Carbonation doesn't appear to have an effect on the health of your stomach, esophagus, or intestines. One large review of studies published in 2009 in Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disorders showed that many studies offer conflicting evidence, but there's simply no solid evidence yet that carbonation affects our gut.

In fact, we read one 2012 study indicating that women who drank carbonated water had better satiety than those who drank plain water after a workout. The researchers state they believe it comes from increased gastric activities from the carbonation. In other words, the carbonated water helps you feel full.

Contrary to popular belief, carbonated beverages don't affect your teeth by wearing away enamel... It's the added sources of acid that do it.

The more acidic a drink is – whether it's from the added flavoring in soda or the citrus oils added to sparkling water – it can affect your teeth. Anything below a pH of four is erosive to your teeth... Champagne ranks at about 2.9 to 3.9, while soda and orange juice are about a three.

So a few occasional glasses of sparkling wine won't cause a problem if you practice good dental care.

The only warning we should issue about sparkling wines is this – the added carbonation does increase the rate of alcohol absorption. That means you should pace yourself more as you imbibe. Do what I do and enjoy a glass of water in between glasses of wine. It also helps keep you hydrated throughout the evening.

If you're looking for a good bottle of champagne, I'd suggest getting a cheaper sparkling wine. Prosecco is about five times less expensive than a bottle of champagne. Our local liquor store currently has a selection of prosecco for about $15 each, whereas its cheapest champagne is $37. The most expensive is $530.

One of my favorite values year in and year out is G.H. Mumm's non-vintage brut (which you can buy for about $20 per bottle). I especially like the Cuvée M.

Champagne might not really help your memory, but there is a good food to pair with it that does: berries, particularly blueberries. Have a few on hand while enjoying a glass of sparkling wine this holiday season.

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What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Baltimore, Maryland
December 12, 2017