People have been drinking wine for thousands of years, and the benefits of doing so have been well documented. Emerging research continues to suggest that drinking wine in moderation — about a glass per day — offers several benefits.
A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away. Could this be true? Here is everything you need to know about the health benefits of drinking wine, which type is healthiest, and its potential downsides.
Do You Like the French?
The French diet is often used as an example of how wine can improve heart health. The French have a fairly high-fat diet but their heart disease risk is relatively low. And some have attributed this to red wine.
Arthur Agatston, MD, cardiologist and creator of the popular South Beach diet, encourages patients who enjoy alcohol to also drink it with meals.
“Alcohol can stimulate the appetite so it is better to drink it with food. When alcohol is mixed with food, it can slow the stomach’s emptying time and potentially decrease the amount of food consumed at the meal”. His alcohol of choice is red wine due to the antioxidant resveratrol. However, he agrees that any alcohol in limited quantities will provide the same health benefit.
There is a misperception that red wine is abundant in antioxidants. “It does contain some, but they are not always well absorbed. If you want antioxidants, you are better off eating a spinach salad with vegetables than drinking a glass of red wine”.
Potential benefits of drinking wine
There are several benefits to drinking a glass of wine.
Rich in antioxidants
There are many antioxidant-rich foods and beverages, and wine is one of them. Antioxidants are compounds that prevent cellular damage caused by inflammation and oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is a condition caused by an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules called free radicals, which can damage your cells. Grapes have high levels of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that have been shown to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Because red wine grapes are higher in antioxidants than white grape varieties, drinking red wine may increase your blood antioxidant levels to a greater extent than drinking white.
In fact, one 2-week study in 40 adults found that consuming 13.5 ounces (400 ml) of red wine daily increased antioxidant status. Higher antioxidant status is associated with a decreased risk of disease. For example, drinking red wine has been associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, which are associated with oxidative stress.
May help combat inflammation
Wine contains compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. Chronic inflammation is harmful and may increase the risk of conditions such as heart disease, autoimmune disorders, and certain cancers. Therefore, it’s best to prevent this type of inflammation as much as possible. Chronic inflammation can be reduced through diet, stress reduction, and exercise.
Many foods have the power to reduce inflammation, and wine is thought to be one of them. Studies suggest that a compound called resveratrol in wine has anti-inflammatory properties and may benefit health.
What’s more, in a study including 2,900 women, those who consumed a glass of wine daily had significantly reduced inflammatory markers compared with women who abstained from alcohol.
On the other hand, other research has found red wine to have a less dramatic effect. A study in 87 adults of an average age of 50 found that drinking 5 ounces (150 ml) of red wine daily caused only slight reductions in inflammatory markers compared with abstaining from alcohol.
Although the research is promising, more studies are needed to better understand the anti-inflammatory benefits of wine.
May benefit heart health
Studies show that individuals who consume moderate amounts of wine have reduced rates of heart disease. Researchers believe that red wine’s high concentration of polyphenol antioxidants can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and metabolic diseases. Some research suggests that drinking red wine may reduce blood pressure in people with high blood pressure, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Yet, other studies suggest that a daily glass of red wine does not reduce blood pressure in people with normal blood pressure or those who already have heart disease.
What’s more, wine may interact with medication that lowers blood pressure. Furthermore, excessive alcohol consumption may have negative effects on heart health, including increased blood pressure and a higher risk of developing heart disease. Whether moderate wine intake benefits heart health is up for debate as research in this area continues.
Drinking wine in moderation may also have other benefits:
Researchers don’t fully understand the mechanisms by which wine and food affect our health, and that means they can’t say with 100 percent certainty that wine and food are always healthier together or why. Some experts say that wine’s health benefits are derived on a cellular level, meaning it doesn’t matter when you consume wine, just as long as you do. But the large body of research suggests that in terms of health effects, wine and food are better together.
Of course, there are some caveats to this, not least of which being that the wine should be consumed in moderation, and the food should be—for the most part—healthy. As of right now, though, there is little evidence that consuming wine with healthy food could be harmful in any way—save from allergic reactions that should be assessed on an individual basis. While studies continue to look into the interactions between wine and food, those who enjoy finding the perfect pairing for their meals can consider these synergistic benefits an added bonus.