“Red wine is healthy!” is a popular claim frequently repeated in headlines across various forms of media (and music to many of our ears).
But, according to research, is red wine actually good for us? Read on to find out.
The History of Wine As Medicine
Ancient Egyptians used wine as medicine dating back as far as 3150 BC.
Wine and The French Paradox
In the late 80s, the term ‘French Paradox’ began to be used to describe a peculiar finding in France.
It seemed that while France had one of the lowest numbers of heart disease-related deaths of the countries studied, they also consumed the highest intakes of saturated fat .
It was theorized that the moderate intake of red wine in the region was responsible for this paradox. However, in later years, this theory was criticized.
The research did not account for several factors including dietary intake (the French had a higher consumption of vegetables), other lifestyle behaviors, reporting errors, and length of time since the country had been consuming high amounts of saturated fat   .
Red Wine and Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in developed countries.
Some risk factors for heart disease include:
- high blood pressure
- and genetics .
Moderate consumption of alcohol has been associated with a decreased risk of heart disease .
When populations with moderate consumption of alcohol have been compared to populations with no alcohol consumption, the risk of dying from heart disease is decreased by 20 to 50% .
Specifically, light to moderate drinkers may have:
- higher HDL cholesterol (the ‘good’ cholesterol)
- lower reports of type 2 diabetes
- and less oxidative stress 
What Makes Wine Consumption Heart-Healthy?
Red wine has shown to be the most protective of heart disease, but for reasons that are still unclear .
Wine consists of water, sugars, ethanol, acids, and polyphenols (flavonoids and non-flavonoids) .
The polyphenol content (from grapes) may make wine superior to other alcoholic beverages in terms of heart health.
Increased flavonoid intake has been linked to decreased:
- blood clots
- risk of dying from heart disease.
Multiple studies have found that flavonoids can:
- improve blood lipid levels
- reduce insulin resistance
- lower oxidative stress
- improve levels of LDL-cholesterol (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) .
Flavonoids can also be found in teas, herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, and nuts .
Resveratrol and Red Wine
Non-flavonoids have been reviewed for their potential cardioprotective effects. Resveratrol has been studied in animal models as a potential supplement for cardiovascular health, including the prevention of stroke and heart failure .
However, when resveratrol supplements were tested in human clinical trials, the results appear to be opposite to that of the effect in mice.
The group who took a resveratrol supplement had less oxygen uptake and no improvements in cholesterol or triglyceride profiles, which were seen in the exercise-only group.
Is Red Wine Better Than White Wine?
In addition, in terms of breast cancer, it appears that red wine contains phytochemicals that act as aromatase inhibitors, halting the conversion of androgen to estrogen, while white wine does not  .
Therefore, aromatase inhibitors of red wine could balance out the increased risk of breast cancer associated with consuming alcohol.
White wine may still have some potential benefit as it contains several antioxidants that are also found in olive oil .
How Much Red Wine is Healthy?
The answer to this question is going to be based on you as an individual. According to the American Heart Association, drinking in moderation is:
- 1-2 drinks a day for men
- 1 drink a day for women.
One drink in terms of wine works out to 4 ounces.
Why Drinking Alcohol Still Requires CAUTION?
NOTE: Alcohol should also be avoided during pregnancy.
Alcohol and Cancer
In terms of breast cancer, alcohol consumption is a known risk factor .
Alcohol and Mood
Alcohol also has an impact on our mood by acting on serotonin and GABA receptors.
Also, a causal link has been found between alcohol use disorder and depression . Anyone suffering from either of these conditions is at twice the risk of developing the other. Depression affects around 9% of adult Americans, and is more common in women (ADAA).
The Bottom Line on Red Wine
In October of 2019, a review in Molecules was published which discussed all studies on red wine and heart disease reported over the past ten years.
This review concluded that “A moderate intake of red wine may produce cardioprotective effects.”. They also added that more research is required to understand the mechanisms behind why red wine may boost heart health .
However, the negative impacts of alcohol on health need to be considered. So, it appears the jury is still out on this one.
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