Health: A Word About Red Wine
A glass of red may be just what the doctor ordered
If you enjoy a glass of merlot, pinot noir or shiraz, you may be pleased to hear that red wine contains compounds that may also be beneficial to your health.
While red wine has been considered a celebratory and wholesome part of traditional diets in much of Europe for thousands of years, it wasn’t until research identifying the “French Paradox” (the observation that the French had lower rates of heart disease despite their high saturated fat intake, possibly because of their wine consumption) was publicized that Americans started embracing the health qualities of wine. In fact, moderate red wine intake is part of the Mediterranean-style dietary pattern, which is highlighted as one of the three healthy eating patterns recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Mediterranean-style diet, one of the most widely studied diet patterns in history, has been linked with several health benefits, including lower risks of heart disease, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. Numerous clinical studies have linked moderate consumption of red wine with many specific benefits, including reduced risks of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, osteoporosis and infectious diseases. Overall, moderate red-wine consumption is linked with lower oxidative stress and healthier aging, according to researchers.
What gives wine its healthful properties?
Red wine is rich in phytochemicals that come from grapes — about 200 unique types have been identified, including resveratrol. This phytonutrient has attracted scientists’ attentions due to its antioxidant, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities. The alcohol in wine also may play a big part in its power; alcohol alone — independent of whether it’s found in wine, beer or spirits — seems to help fight against cardiovascular disease.
The key to deriving health benefits from wine is to drink it in moderation. The benefits found in a glass of red wine only occur with moderate consumption — one glass (5 ounces) per day for women, and one to two glasses per day for men. Consuming too much wine — or any alcohol, for that matter — can lead to serious problems, including nearly 80,000 annual deaths in the U.S. related to alcohol consumption. Drinking to excess has been associated with neurological disorders; cardiovascular problems; social and psychological issues; gastrointestinal disorders; and, of course, liver disease. Drinking during pregnancy may cause developmental problems in the fetus. And, even moderate alcohol use has been linked with an increased risk of breast and colorectal cancers.
The Bottom Line
If you already enjoy drinking wine, do so in moderation; but don’t start drinking it just for its potential health benefits. If you have a family history of cancer: discuss potential risks associated with drinking alcohol with your health-care provider.