The Grape Escape: Do I look fat in this Pinot Noir?

Google “wine and health.” Whoa! I just got 78 million hits! Human infatuation with wine and whether it’s good for you goes back 1,900 years or so, when the biblical letter to Timothy advised early believers to “No longer drink only water, but take a little wine for the sake of your stomach and our frequent ailments.” (Take that, pulpit-thumping teetotalers.)

You can hardly open a medical journal without finding another study examining the benefits — or the hazards — of liquor, beer or wine. The so-called “French Paradox” hit the news 15 years ago when the guys at “60 Minutes” marveled about those wacky French, who could load up on cream, butter and cheese, but their hearts stayed healthy because they washed down this fatty fare with good red wine.

Is wine good for you or is it not? Point: One study trumpets the cardiovascular benefits of the grape. Counterpoint: Another warns that the stuff can cause breast cancer in women. Drink a little and feel your arteries clearing out. Drink a lot more, and as the surgeon general warns us, you’ll risk birth defects in your infant child, impair your ability to drive a car or operate machinery, and fall victim to unspecified health problems. Ick. Pay your money and take your chances, but one thing seems clear: Moderate consumption can’t hurt.

Now, in the latest study to hit the news, Archives of Internal Medicine unveils a study of almost 20,000 women over 13 years, finding that wine drinkers consistently gained significantly less weight than their pudgy non-drinking sisters, even though wine is calorie-dense at about 150 calories in a 5-ounce glass. Alas, the phenomenon seems to work only for women. Sorry, guys!