To drink or not to drink? That is the question on a lot of minds. For decades there have been debates on whether drinking red wine is beneficial to your health or whether it is just a cop out from people that don’t want to give it up.
As many people know, red wine is rich in antioxidants. These include resveratrol, catechin, epicatechin and proanthocyanidins (1). These antioxidants are thought to be protective against oxidation and free radicals that can cause damage to the body. It is thought that proanthocyanidins are important due to their free radical scavenging activity, protection against lipid peroxidation as well as potential antimicrobial properties (2, 3). Therefore, proanthocyanidins in particular may also help to prevent heart disease and cancer (2).
This is reinforced with another recent study that has also suggested that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a decreased risk of ischemic heart disease.(4). One study found that a possible explanation for this decreased risk could be due to the fact that it limits oxidative damage in particular oxidation of LDL cholesterol (5). In addition to this, it is thought that drinking 1 glass of wine per day (allowing at least 3 alcohol free days per week) could reduce the risk of stroke in middle aged men (6).
The results of one study in particular found another benefit of red wine is that polyphenols within the beverage could potentially have a positive effect on insulin resistance (7).
What are the negatives of drinking red wine?
While there are benefits to drinking red wine, there are also some negatives. Moderate drinking is often a lot less alcohol then many people think and so many people who may think they are not drinking too much, may in fact be doing so. Drinking a considerable amount of wine, even if it is just 1 or 2 times a week, can increase your risk of death and disease significantly (8). There are also issues associated with weight gain and increased risk of depression surrounding heavy wine consumption (9, 10).
So what’s the deal?
Light to moderate alcohol intake (up to 1 drink per day for women and 1 or 2 drinks per day for men) is associated with decreased risks for total mortality, heart disease and stroke. However, higher levels of alcohol consumption are associated with increased cardiovascular risk. If you don’t drink already, then there is no reason why you should start, however if you are already a drinker and are doing so moderately and responsibly, then there is no reason why you should stop. If you have a problem with moderation, there is no point fooling yourself that the red wine will be doing you good. As with 99.9% of things in life: the dose makes the poison… or the remedy.
1. Bertelli AA, Das DK. Grapes, wines, resveratrol, and heart health. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2009;54(6):468-76.
2. Cos P, De Bruyne T, Hermans N, Apers S, Berghe DV, Vlietinck AJ. Proanthocyanidins in health care: current and new trends. Curr Med Chem. 2004;11(10):1345-59.
3. Nandakumar V, Singh T, Katiyar SK. Multi-targeted prevention and therapy of cancer by proanthocyanidins. Cancer Lett. 2008;269(2):378-87.
4. Ruidavets JB, Ducimetiere P, Evans A, Montaye M, Haas B, Bingham A, et al. Patterns of alcohol consumption and ischaemic heart disease in culturally divergent countries: the Prospective Epidemiological Study of Myocardial Infarction (PRIME). BMJ. 2010;341:c6077.
5. Rifici VA, Stephan EM, Schneider SH, Khachadurian AK. Red wine inhibits the cell-mediated oxidation of LDL and HDL. J Am Coll Nutr. 1999;18(2):137-43.
6. Truelsen T, Gronbaek M, Schnohr P, Boysen G. Intake of beer, wine, and spirits and risk of stroke : the copenhagen city heart study. Stroke. 1998;29(12):2467-72.
7. Chiva-Blanch G, Urpi-Sarda M, Ros E, Valderas-Martinez P, Casas R, Arranz S, et al. Effects of red wine polyphenols and alcohol on glucose metabolism and the lipid profile: a randomized clinical trial. Clin Nutr. 2013;32(2):200-6.
8. Hodge AM, English DR, O'Dea K, Giles GG. Alcohol intake, consumption pattern and beverage type, and the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Diabet Med. 2006;23(6):690-7.
9. Sayon-Orea C, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Bes-Rastrollo M. Alcohol consumption and body weight: a systematic review. Nutr Rev. 2011;69(8):419-31.
10. Gea A, Beunza JJ, Estruch R, Sanchez-Villegas A, Salas-Salvado J, Buil-Cosiales P, et al. Alcohol intake, wine consumption and the development of depression: the PREDIMED study. BMC Med. 2013;11:192.