What Are the Health Benefits of Red Wine?

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Miller, MBChB

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Research suggests that a glass of wine per day may, in fact, “keep the doctors away." However, while red wine consumption can be good for heart health, it is very important to note that only moderate intake has been associated with health benefits. Want to learn more? We're delving into the pros and cons of red wine here. 

Health Benefits Associated With Red Wine

Cholesterol-Related Benefits:

Improves "Good" Cholesterol

  • A compound found in red wine, known as resveratrol, can lead to an increase in "good" cholesterol, known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Heart Protection

  • In turn, improvements to one's cholesterol levels are associated with good cardiovascular health. Red wine, consumed in moderation, may, therefore, help ward off coronary heart disease by reducing the likelihood of blood clot formation.

Cancer Prevention

  • Resveratrol is also an antioxidant, meaning it reduces free radicals that are known to increase the risk of developing cancer. Red wine also contains flavonoids, which assist in free radical cleanup and demonstrate anti-inflammatory properties.

Reduces One's Risk of Type 2 Diabetes

  • Research has shown that those who drink red wine have a lower prevalence of type 2 diabetes mellitus, in part due to the cholesterol-improving properties of red wine. However, red wine is not a preventive measure. With this in mind, you should talk to your physician if you have an increased risk of heart disease or diabetes and are considering incorporating alcohol into your diet.

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A Good Source of Antioxidants

While red wine does not contain a significant amount of vitamins or minerals, it is rich in phytochemicals that offer cellular protection through various mechanisms of action. Not only do these compounds have an anti-inflammatory effect, some can even be considered cancer-preventing antioxidants.

Flavonoid

  • The most well-known for their antioxidant activity, flavonoids help with the elimination of mutagens and carcinogens responsible for cancer formation. Along with their anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, flavonoids can also assist in regulating the digestive system and help prevent diarrhea.

Resveratrol

  • This antioxidant is known to improve overall cholesterol levels by decreasing the "bad" cholesterol in the body, known as low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. It can also protect blood vessel walls by preventing abnormal blood clotting and plaque formation in the arteries. As a result, it is an effective protector of the cardiovascular system. Resveratol, found in the skin of grapes, has also been linked to reduction of tumors and cancer prevention. Red wine generally has a higher content of resveratrol compared to white wine.

How Much Is Too Much?

In terms of red wine consumption, moderation is the key. An excessive intake of red wine can actually reverse its associated health benefits and cause detrimental effects to the body.

Elevated "Bad" Cholesterol

  • Just as with any type of alcohol, excessive intake of red wine can elevate blood cholesterol level; if left unchecked, high cholesterol can lead to diabetes and heart problems. Only consumption of red wine in moderation can lead to health benefits.

Increased Risk of Cancer

  • Alcohol is by nature an inflammatory substance that can lead to various medical conditions, and red wine is no exception when consumed excessively. In fact, when abused, its anti-cancer properties are drastically outweighed.

Migraines

  • Red wine may be a trigger for individuals who are prone to migraine headaches. These migraines may be an indication that the person is sensitive to compounds, known as tannins, in the wine, which gives red wine its signature dry and bitter taste.

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Weight Gain

  • Typically, five ounces of red wine is approximately 120 calories. Since red wine does not hold much nutritional value and is low in vitamins and minerals, overindulgence of the drink can lead to significant weight gain. If left unchecked, it can lead to obesity, which in itself holds a myriad of health concerns.

Risky Behavior

  • As is the case with any type of alcohol, red wine abuse can lead to risky behavior, such as poor decisions in food choices, social disruption, and errors in judgment. Alcohol abuse not only endangers the health of the person who is drinking, it also endangers the people around the affected individual.

Recommended Intake

While there is no daily recommended intake of red wine, it is still important to consume only moderate amounts to maximize the health returns. For adult men, the daily limitation is suggested to be no more than two drinks per day, while women are recommended to have no more than one drink per day. For reference, one drink is equivalent to five ounces of red wine. 

For individuals with pre-existing medical conditions, such as liver or kidney conditions, it is important to consult your physician before incorporating red wine, or any other alcoholic substance, into your diet.

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