Next time you pop open a bottle of wine, rest assured knowing that you could be doing your body some good. However, before we examine the specifics, keep the axiom “everything in moderation” in mind during your reading of this piece. After all, the benefits of sipping on a little vino are null and void if you overindulge.
When you keep it to a glass or two, research shows that wine (specifically red wine) has a wide array of potential health benefits ranging from improved memory to improved heart health. If you’re curious about learning more, read on to explore what it means to consume alcohol in moderation, the mental and physical gains of wine, and whether red or white is better.
Everything in Moderation
“Moderation” is a subjective term, so let’s lay the foundation of this article with some recommendations from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP). First, alcohol should only be consumed by adults of legal drinking age (21+ in the USA). Secondly, consuming wine in moderation means one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Remember, too, that the alcohol by volume (ABV) of the wine you drink makes a significant difference.
|Ounces & ABV of Wine
|5 fl oz at 12% alcohol
5 fl oz at 15% alcohol
5 fl oz at 17% alcohol
Excessive alcohol consumption has no benefits. The ODPHP defines “high-risk” drinking for women as four or more drinks in one day or eight or more drinks per week; for men, five or more drinks in a day or 15 or more drinks per week. Alcohol intoxication is the culprit for at least 88,000 deaths in the United States each year. Furthermore, some individuals should not consume alcohol at all, including individuals who are:
- Taking certain medications or have certain medical conditions
- Recovering from alcoholism
- Unable to control their drinking
With a firm grasp on what moderation means and an understanding of the dangers of excessive drinking, it’s time to highlight the potential health benefits of wine!
The Health Benefits of Wine
Many of the health benefits of wine, most notably red wine, come from the presence of a compound called resveratrol. Resveratrol is produced by plants to fight off pathogens and help them recover from injury. For humans, sources of this compound include blueberries, peanuts, raspberries, and—you guessed it—grapes.
1. Check Your Gut
As it turns out, your gut feeling about red wine may have been right all along. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition completed a study that showed red wine consumption can “modulate the growth of select gut microbiota in humans.” These findings suggest prebiotic benefits associated with red wine consumption.
2. Protect Your Heart
While the healthful properties of wine have been hypothesized for thousands of years, modern research is proving our long held beliefs. A study by the International Journal of Wine Research suggests that the moderate consumption of red wine on a regular basis could prevent coronary disease. More specifically, resveratrol, alcohol, and polyphenolic compounds in wine help to lower oxidative stress, blood pressure, and blood viscosity.
These findings may help explain the low incidence of heart attacks in France, otherwise known as the “French Paradox.”
3. Load Up on Omega-3 Fatty Acids
You don’t need to eat fish to get your Omega-3s. According to research from The American Society for Nutrition wine may act like a “trigger,” increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in our plasma and red blood cells, even in the absence of fish consumption.
Although the mechanisms at play are not completely understood, researchers are confident that a glass of wine a day is a good source of this essential fatty acid. Omega-3s are known to help protect the brain and nervous system, alleviate symptoms of depression, and improve concentration.
4. Protect Your Chompers
Few things are more embarrassing than wine teeth, but here’s the thing: red wine may actually help fight cavities. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that wine could slow bacterial growth that causes cavities and periodontal diseases…so maybe a bit of temporary staining isn’t so bad after all!
5. Prevent Liver Disease
For people at risk of coronary heart disease, moderate wine consumption was shown to significantly reduce the prevalence of suspected nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). It’s important to note that The University of California’s Department of Medicine suggests a maximum of one glass a day. Anything more will actually increase your risk of coronary heart disease.
6. Boost Your Mood
Once again, it’s always about moderation. While heavy drinkers have an increased risk of depression, those who keep their wine consumption to a glass a day can nearly cut their risk of depression in half!
7. Prevent Dementia
While drinking to forget might not be the best plan, moderate drinking may actually stave off dementia. The Loyola University of Chicago tested the relationship between moderate drinking and cognition. The study revealed that light to moderate drinking does not appear to impair cognition in younger subjects, and actually reduces the risk of dementia and cognitive decline in older subjects.
8. Protect Against Lung Cancer
Wine’s ability to prevent cancer is highly debated. Much of the research overstates resveratrol’s power to prevent colon cancer and breast cancer. However, a study published in Cancer Cell International did find the red wine inhibited cancer cell proliferation and reduced clonogenic survival at low doses. Ultimately, their findings suggest wine may have “considerable anti-tumor and chemoprevention properties” in lung cancer.