You may have heard that drinking alcohol is unhealthy, but some researchers believe that red wine is actually beneficial to your health. Of course, these scientists are not recommending that you start drinking in excess, but they say a moderate amount (such as a glass of wine at dinner) may be optimal, especially for your heart.
Not all scientists, however, are convinced that red wine is beneficial to your health. In fact, some believe it’s a myth. So before you take a toast to your good health, let’s review what researchers believe to be true so far.
The Health Benefits of Red Wine
Red wine contains antioxidants called “resveratrol” that may prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol (high-density lipoprotein) and decreasing levels of “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein). This ingredient is also believed to protect against blood clots and damage to the blood vessels, providing improved cardiovascular health. But the antioxidant effect of red wine may have other benefits aside from the heart and blood vessels.
Researchers at the University of California say that the phytochemicals found in red wine may protect against diabetes, cancer, as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. Some researchers even speculate that red wine may also improve memory, lower cholesterol, and, in addition to exercise, may increase your life.
While these health benefits are great for oenophiles (i.e. wine connoisseurs), there’s a limit to how much you should be drinking. In general, you should probably limit your alcohol consumption if you find yourself finishing a whole bottle of wine in a single sitting.
How much alcohol should I drink?
Excessive drinking can be especially harmful to the body, particularly to the liver and the heart, but moderate drinking (e.g. four ounces of wine) may be the most beneficial to your health. In fact, researchers at Harvard University found that the “regularity of consumption” had more of a health effect than the amount of alcohol consumed, suggesting that moderate drinking is key.
“Having seven drinks on a Saturday night and then not drinking the rest of the week isn’t at all the equivalent of having one drink a day,” warns researchers at the university.
Type of Wine Matters
For health-conscious wine drinkers, researchers at the University of California recommend drinking Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Pinot Noir. These wines have the highest concentrations of flavonoids, an ingredient that gives wine its antioxidant qualities. Sweeter white wines such as Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc have fewer flavonoids and thus less health benefits.
Are the benefits of red wine being exaggerated?
Some studies suggest that drinking red wine for a boost of resveratrol may actually have little to no effect on your health. In an article published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found no correlation between death and resveratrol—nor did they find a link between resveratrol and inflammation, heart disease, and cancer.
“The story of resveratrol turns out to be another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time,” says Richard D. Semba of John Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The thinking was that certain foods are good for you because they contain resveratrol. We didn’t find that at all.”
While this is bad news for wine drinkers, more research will need to be conducted to fully understand if the health benefits of red wine and resveratrol are being exaggerated.