Red wine benefits and your health

Red wine benefits for your health has been a hotly debated issue for some time. Many people believe that a glass of red wine each day (as was common for vast swathes of history) is a valuable part of a healthy diet which may help to lower the risk of various diseases – notably including heart disease.

There are various scientific research papers which have come to the same conclusion (ultimately, a small amount of red wine in your diet can be beneficial) but there is always a fine line between moderate and excessive intake when it comes to any alcohol – including wine.

Red wine is traditionally made with dark-colored, whole grapes, which are crushed and fermented into the beautiful red nectar we all know and love. As a result, red wine is filled with healthy antioxidants, which are often thought to be a prime contributor to the positive health benefits of red wine.

In the past, red wine benefits were often credited with the low rates of heart disease and relative low cholesterol found in the French population. Considering frequent consumption of red wine is a natural part of their diet, it was believed that this red wine was responsible for the beneficial observed health effects. In addition, this was despite the high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol being consumed in the traditional French diet. However, more recent scientific research suggests that high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol may not be responsible for increases in heart disease – and so the benefits of red wine in the French population are still somewhat of a mystery.

Antioxidants in wine

Grapes are very rich in a number of antioxidants (a substance that inhibits oxidation) including resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins. These antioxidants, and specifically both proanthocyanidins and resveratrol, are believed to be mostly responsible for the red wine health benefits.

Resveratrol, which is found in the skin of the grapes and is produced by many plans as a response to damage, has been linked to many health benefits such as blood clotting, inflammation reduction and overall reduction of many health issues such as heart disease and even cancer.

Proanthocyanidins on the other hand may directly help to reduce oxidative damage in the body. Like resveratrol, they may also help prevent heart disease and cancer by fighting these health issues in the body.

Antioxidants in red wine and red wine benefits
Amazingly, due to the concentration of fruit in red wine it actually has higher antioxidant potency than the vast majority of juices!

The science is pretty conclusive here, and antioxidants are widely considered to be a major benefit in any food or drink – including alcoholic drinks such as wine! Fortunately, since wine is made using whole fruit (unlike beers which typically exclusively use ‘plant matter’ for fermentation) we’re able to gain all the benefits of the antioxidants as if we were consuming the fruit itself directly – great stuff!

Red wine benefits – key is moderation

To really gain the most benefits from red wine, the key is in moderation. The scientific studies investigating the impact of red wine on health benefits appear to show a J-shaped curve relationship between risk of heart disease and wine intake. For those who consume a small amount (150ml of red wine daily), they appear to be at a roughly 32% lower risk than those who do not drink wine.

However, wine drinkers who classify as having a ‘high intake’ are dramatically at worse risk of heart disease than non-drinkers (12).

Furthermore, as with many health benefits, the relationship isn’t as clear cut as a linear cutoff, with some populations which are already at an elevated risk of heart disease (such as the elderly) actually gaining even more benefits from red wine than those who are younger.

Is the alcohol harmful?

First of all, it should be noted that in moderation alcohol itself isn’t harmful – even if consumed on a regular frequency such as several times each week. However, many people opt not to consume alcohol at all for religious, dietary or health reasons – but fear not! You can still get all the same red wine benefits as those who are happy to drink alcohol, since new research suggests that 2-3 glasses of non-alcoholic red wine per day will also help to lower the risk of high blood pressure in both men and women.

Red Wine Health Benefits

Please note: the following are taken from the conclusions of scientific studies conducted in the last 20 years.

  • Reduced risk of depression: A study of middle aged and elderly people showed that those who drank 2–7 glasses of wine per week were less likely to become depressed
  • Reduced risk of dementia: Drinking 1–3 glasses of wine per day has been linked to a reduced risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Reduced risk of type 2 diabetes in women: Moderate red wine consumption has been linked with a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women
  • Reduced risk of cancer: Studies have shown that moderate wine consumption is linked with a decreased risk of several cancers, including colon, basal cell, ovary and prostate cancers
  • Reduced insulin resistance: Drinking 2 glasses per day of regular or dealcoholized red wine for 4 weeks may reduce insulin resistance

Benefits of Wine

Glass of red wine

In conclusion, there are various health benefits actually directly associated with the consumption of wine (red and white, althoguh this article focuses on the former rather than the latter). These range from reduced risk of depression and dementia to lowered impact of diabetes, insulin resistance and even combatting cancer.

However, as with any alcohol – the key to the health benefits of wine are in moderation. Too much can cause you far more harm than not consuming it will do, so it’s important to make sure you stay on the ‘lower end’ of the consumption spectrum (often even just as low as 150ml per day) to ensure you get the red wine benefits without any of the red wine risks!