Do your ears perk up whenever you hear something regarding the health benefits of red wine? I know mine do; just looking for any excuse to indulge, I guess – in moderation, of course.
The good news is that there are some great red wine health benefits, and “moderation” seems to be the name of the game when it comes to answering the question: is wine good for you? Like anything else that we consume, drinking wine is no different; over-eating or over-drinking is never a healthy choice and it often comes with negative consequences.
But for those moderate wine drinkers, the health benefits of red wine are pretty impressive. Many studies have been done by universities around the world that have examined red wine and red grapes and their benefits to us. Let’s look at a few of these benefits.
Health Benefits of Red Wine and Resveratrol: Is it Heart-Healthy?
Red wine has something in it called “resveratrol” that has gotten the attention of the medical world as a potential benefit to good heart health. The Mayo Clinic has reported that the substance, resveratrol, found in the red grape, is a form of polyphenol, an antioxidant, and that combined with the alcohol in wine is thought to prevent certain heart disease by increasing the “good” cholesterol levels in our bodies, thus protecting the lining of our arteries and blood vessels from damage.
Another potential benefit of resveratrol is that the body is also at a decreased risk of having inflammation and blood clotting, both being high risk indicators of heart disease. More research is needed, however, before it’s known whether resveratrol is the absolute cause of the reduced risk.
Other research indicates that red wine health benefits are found in the prevention of Ischemic strokes.
The caveat to this is that to reap the health benefits of red wine, doctors caution us to drink in moderation, and if you are currently not a wine drinker, don’t start drinking red wine to reap the benefits. Having a glass of Pinot Noir with dinner, is one thing, but consuming more than a glass or two in a day will result in the wine’s alcohol content creating harmful effects to your body.
In general, the health benefits of red wine research has determined that those drinking 1 to 3 glasses of wine a day on a regular basis are healthier than those who drink no wine, and they are also healthier than those who indulge in more than 1 to 3 glasses.
Data gathered from medical doctors in the United States, who participated in a Physicians’ Health Study shows that over-consumption of red wine will cancel the red wine health benefits of those found in moderate drinkers by escalating the risks related to some less common forms of cancer.
Doctors seem to agree, however, that drunk in moderation, health benefits of red wine are reaped, and they credit it to the antioxidant, resveratrol.
Health Benefits of Red Wine Research in Heart Disease
Many universities have researched the health benefits of red wine, but most research into the antioxidant resveratrol found in the red grape was done using animals, rather than people. Mice that were given resveratrol showed signs that the antioxidant might also protect against diabetes and obesity, as well as its impact on decreased “bad” cholesterol levels and increased “good cholesterol levels.
Both diabetes and obesity are strong risk components of developing heart disease. However, again, the findings were only found in mice, not people. Additionally, the same dosage of resveratrol used on the mice in these studies, converts to a person having to drink red wine daily in the amount of over 63 quarts.
Health Benefits of Red Wine Comes from the Grapes
The resveratrol found in red wine is derived from the skin of the red wine grape used to make the wine. The reason that red wine has more of the heart-healthy resveratrol in its finished product is due to the fact that red wine is fermented with the grape skins intact longer than is done with white wine, allowing the wine to absorb more of the antibiotic.
Researchers have also noted that resveratrol appears to be produced in increased amounts in grape vines under stress, meaning that grapes growing in difficult growing regions, like Spain, Chile, Australia or Argentina contain higher quantities of it than that found in gentler growing climates.
Red or purple grape juices are thought to have a degree of the heart-healthy benefits found in red wine. Thus, just consuming the grapes or grape juice may be a nonalcoholic way of adding resveratrol to your diet. Other resveratrol-rich foods include blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts. However, the amount of resveratrol found in a food or a red wine can vary greatly.
Researchers have found that there is no harm in taking resveratrol supplements, but that most of resveratrol found in supplements cannot be absorbed by the body.
Health Benefits of Red Wine vs. Benefits of Other Alcohol
Various studies show that moderate quantities of any type of alcohol can benefit your heart, and the benefits are not just related to alcohol in red wine. Although if red wine appears to have the edge on health benefits when compared to other alcoholic beverages, such as white wine, beer, or hard liquor, it is attributed to the antioxidants in the red grape that is used to make the wine.
The alcohol content in red wine isn’t considered to have any greater heart-healthy benefits than other types of alcohol. Alcohol by itself (without the red grape factor) is thought to help:
- Raise the “good” cholesterol in our bodies
- Reduce the formation of blood clots
- Prevent artery damage caused by “bad” cholesterol
While acknowledging the health benefits of red wine, The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommend that no one should start drinking alcohol as a deterrent to heart disease. Alcohol can cause a number of health problems, and could be fatal if mixed with certain prescriptions. The over-consumption of alcohol is thought to cause:
- High blood pressure
- Liver damage
- High triglycerides
- Certain forms of cancer
- Weakened heart muscle (cardiomyopathy)
- Heart failure
Red Wine Consumption and the French Paradox
The mystery surrounding the people of France and why their propensity for cream didn’t result in more frequent death’s by heart attacks is known as the “French Paradox” The answer is of course that the French consume a lot of red wine!
A Copenhagen study following 130,000 people over a period of 10 years found that those participants averaging 6 glasses of wine consumption a week had lower death rates of 30-40% below normal.
Red Wine Health Benefits Recap
The consumption of red wine in moderation has the potential to reduce the risk of:
- Heart disease
- High “bad” cholesterol levels
- Blood clotting
- Inflammation in blood vessels
- An Ischemic stroke
- Reduce kidney stones in women (we didn’t discuss it, but there are studies supporting this!)
We can rejoice in the knowledge that red wine in moderation is good for you, that the health benefits of red wine include heart-healthy antibiotics, leaving us to wonder no more “is wine good for you”, because that enticing glass of Merlot, Port, Cabernet Sauvignon, etc is good for you!