In recent years, red wine has been assigned such health benefits as protecting us against heart disease and cancer. Still, many studies show no difference in red wine versus other alcohol containing beverages—such as beer, white wine or liquor—when considering their health benefits. The Mayo Clinic does report that something in red wine seems to be beneficial to heart health. They just aren’t sure exactly what it is that provides the health benefits.
Red wine is full of antioxidants that scientists believe have heart health benefits. These antioxidants are called polyphenols and may help to protect the lining of the blood vessels. These antioxidants may also increase good cholesterol and protect your arteries against damage.
Polyphenols come in two different forms: flavonoids and nonflavonoids. These substances are found in other foods—like white wine, beer, grape juice, oranges and tea—but they are found in higher concentrations in red wine. The nonflavonoid, resveratrol, has received the most attention from researchers.
Resveratrol has been mostly studied in animals—not humans—and more studies are needed to increase our knowledge of this substance. Many possible benefits are being attributed to resveratrol, including a decrease in “bad” cholesterol and possible prevention of blood clots—both factors in heart disease.
Besides heart health, it’s suspected that resveratrol may inhibit the growth of some tumors in certain types of cancer. There may also be hope for patients with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s as the resveratrol (which is found in the skin and seeds of the grapes used to make red wine) is thought to help in the formation of nerve cells which may lead to further treatment of these diseases.
Interestingly, the alcohol found in red wine—and other drinks such as white wine, beer or liquor—seems to have some heart health benefits as well. It is possible that alcohol plays a role in increasing the “good” HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and hinders blood clots from forming. Alcohol may also help prevent damage done to arteries by “bad” LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
All Things in Moderation
While there certainly appear to be health benefits that we can reap from red wine, it’s important to remember that alcohol has many health damaging properties as well. One glass of red wine with dinner may provide health benefits, but more than that will compromise your health.
Drink alcohol of any kind in moderation to avoid the potentially damaging side effects alcohol can be responsible for. Excess alcohol consumption can be responsible for high blood pressure, liver damage, weight issues, as well as many emotional and personal problems. A serving of wine is considered 4 to 5-oz., and to reap the maximum benefits a man can drink 1 to 2 servings daily and a woman one. No one is recommending you begin drinking alcohol in efforts to protect your heart.