Red Wine And Health

Countless studies have found that moderate amounts of red wine have a positive effect on heart health and cancer prevention, and some chemical components in red wine may slow the oxidative cell damage that occurs as we age. All the same, some of these studies are inconclusive, and many doctors are reluctant to wholeheartedly extol the benefits of alcohol.

Red Wines and Antioxidants

Antioxidants in red wine may protect the lining of blood vessels, preserve blood vessel integrity and slow oxidative damage, all of which can help prevent heart disease. The antioxidants in red and white wine, called polyphenols, occur in two types:

  • Flavonoids: Flavonoid antioxidants occur in red wines as well as other forms of alcohol, including white wine and beer. But red wines contain higher concentrations, since flavonoids are found in the skins of red fruits, like grapes and apples. Flavonoids may increase the production of HDLs, also known as the “good” form of cholesterol.
  • Non-Flavonoids: The most researched non-flavonoid is resveratrol, which researchers believe offers numerous heart-health benefits. But the studies suggesting this are still somewhat inconclusive, and many of them have been conducted only on animal subjects consuming the human resveratrol equivalent of hundreds of bottles of wine a day.

Red Wines, White Wine and Resveratrol

Animal studies conducted on mice and rats indicate that resveratrol may reduce inflammation, blood clotting and fatty blockages in the arteries. Resveratrol may also protect against cardiovascular problems by preventing obesity and diabetes.

To increase your intake of resveratrol, choose red wines over white wine, especially dry red wines like petit syrah and pinot noir. Also, consume fruits with red, blue or purple skins, such as plums, blueberries, apples and grapes. Grape juice may also contain substantial concentrations of healthy polyphenols. All of these fruits offer vitamin and fiber benefits–in addition to resveratrol–that make them excellent nutritional choices.

Alcohol and Your Health

In spite of the results of some ongoing studies suggesting a link between red wine and health, increasing your alcohol consumption may not be the wisest way to raise your intake of healthy polyphenols.

Connections exist between moderate alcohol consumption (two drinks or fewer per day) and general good health, including cardiovascular health. However:

  • The connections may be correlative, not causative. Since drinking can be a social activity, many moderate drinkers also maintain social connections, which provide a separate and independent beneficial contribution to heart health.
  • The definition of “moderate” varies in accordance with many factors such as age, genetics and body weight.

Most doctors and medical associations, including the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, do not recommend increasing your alcohol consumption for the sake of your heart health. Alcohol is an addictive substance, and until studies prove otherwise, the benefits of resveratrol are outweighed by the negative effects of drinking, including high blood pressure, obesity, liver damage, increased cancer risk and alcohol-related accidents.

Resources

Mayo Clinic. (2009). Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/HB00089

Yale-New Haven Hospital. (2005). A glass of red wine a day keeps the doctor away. Retrieved September 16, 2010, from http://www.ynhh.org/online/nutrition/advisor/red_wine.html