Health Benefits of Red Wine: What's Real and What's Hype?

The potential benefits versus the hype of red wine.

Studies showing the health benefits of red wine seem almost too good to be true, especially when we are bombarded daily with both the hype of some new miracle cure alongside dire warnings regarding the foods we eat and medicines we take.  All too frequently, what was being touted as a breakthrough one day often does not stand up to later scrutiny.

Regarding red wine, though, there does appear to be some merit regarding the claims and a few thousand years of usage seems to show that, in moderation, this is not only safe but may indeed be beneficial.

For a start, red wine is full of antioxidants which many researchers feel help promote the overall health of the heart by lowering bad cholesterol while raising the “good” cholesterol, thus protecting the arteries.  These antioxidants, such as flavonoids and non flavonoids, seem to have many promising heart-healthy benefits.  In addition, it even appears as though the alcohol in red wine may also help, though there is some debate regarding if those benefits are more pronounced in red wine consumption or if drinking any alcoholic beverage (such as beer or white wine) will produce the same results.

Proponents of red wine consumption point to studies which indicate that the antioxidants in red wine known as polyphenols help protect the lining in the blood vessels of the heart.  These antioxidants come in two main forms:

  • Flavonoids:  An antioxidant which is found in many fruits and other foods, such as cocoa, tea, onions, oranges and grapes, among others.   Wine and beer also contain some flavonoids, though not in the same quantities as red wine.
  • Non Flavonoids:  These antioxidants appear to prevent fatty deposits from blocking and clogging the arteries in the heart.  For this reason, there has been a great deal of attention focused on this, though it should be noted that the studies mostly involved mice rather than humans.  Resveratrol, which has been getting the most attention (and probably the most spam in regards to supplements) is a type of non flavonoid.

Regarding resveratrol, as I stated earlier, most of the studies have involved mice and researchers are loathe to suggest that taking a resveratrol supplement will have any health benefits.  The Mayo Clinic has reported that a person would have to consume between 100 and 1000 glasses of red wine per day to receive the same dosage used in the mice studies.  However, some studies have indicated that resveratrol, perhaps in smaller amounts, can reduce the risk of inflammation and blood clotting, which in turn can lower the risk for heart disease and stroke.  On a personal note, having developed arthritis in my teens due to another illness, I feel that a glass of red wine does at least help the symptoms in this regard.

Whatever you decide, it does appear that at least some alcohol consumption may be good for you while drinking red wine might have some additional benefits.

I hope this information has helped.


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