Is red wine good for your health? Every wine-enthusiast asks themselves this question at least once a year, as they have one glass (or bottle ?) too much.
One Easter, I opened a bottle of Crljenak Kaštelanski by the Matela family and enjoyed it to the last drop. After savouring the wine, my thoughts wandered to an urban legend and the magical effects of red wine on our health.
I decided to roam the internet in order to find all the relevant scientific research, and to write an article for all wine-lovers, listing the ten reasons why red wine is good for your health.
It all began with the French paradox
The French paradox is a phenomenon observed in the French society. The French are known to drink wine (particularly at lunchtime) and food rich in fats (various cheeses). However, they also have a lower rate of death and conditions related to cardiovascular diseases.
What protects the French?
The scientific community has been trying to find a rational explanation of the French paradox. Finally, they discovered a polyphenol named resveratrol.
What is resveratrol?
Resveratrol is a polyphenol found in the skin of red grapes. It is considered to be a potent antioxidant and it has numerous health benefits to our organism. Resveratrol is found in greater concentrations in red wine than in white wine, primarily due to differences in their production. With white wine we ferment the must, while with red wine we ferment the pomace (pressed grapes). This is why red wine contains more resveratrol, which is primarily found in the skin and the seeds of the grapes.
Now that you know what resveratrol is, it is time to list the reasons why red wine is good for your health.
1. Strengthening the immune system
Research has shown that a glass of red wine a day can boost the immune system and contribute to the fight against various ailments, particularly colds.
According to the writings of the American Journal of Epidemiology, red wine offers a stronger protection of the immune system than white wine. Scientists noticed that red wine can help the immune system fight off 200 viruses that cause the cold.
There are two components of wine that contribute to the fight against various infections: ethanol (alcohol contained in wine) and resveratrol. However, all wine-lovers should keep in mind that the most important factor in keeping our immune system safe is moderation.
2. Raising the levels of omega-3 fatty acids
Moderate alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells.
Mediterranean food is filled with omega-3 fatty acids that are crucial for healthy functioning of the heart, brain, and eyes, and they also contribute to the elasticity of blood vessels.
European scientists conducted a research on 1,604 adults from three different geographical areas (London, Limburg in Belgium, and Abruzzo in Italy). The research has demonstrated that moderate consumption of wine serves as a “trigger” that elevates the levels of omega-3 fatty acids in our body.
Researchers have observed greater levels of omega-3 fatty acids in people who drink wine in moderation, in comparison to people who do not drink wine (despite consuming the same quantities of seafood). People who were immoderate in their wine consumption recorded the lowest levels of omega-3. Moderate consumption means one glass a day for women and two glasses a day for men.
It has also been proven that people who enjoy wine have the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids when compared to people who enjoy other alcoholic drinks.
3. Effect on the health of blood vessels
British scientists have discovered that procyanidins (antioxidants found in red wine) help in maintaining the health of blood vessels. Traditional methods of wine production seem to result in greater levels of procyanidin in wine. It has been observed that the inhabitants of southwest France and Sardinia live longer precisely due to higher levels of procyanidins in the wine that was produced traditionally.
Procyanidins are found in grape seeds and they contribute to the health of the inner layer of blood vessels, while tannins and flavonoids make them more resistant.
The famous Croatian nutritionist and technologist, Ignac Kulier, stated that moderate wine consumption reduces the risk of sudden heart and cardiovascular system failures (sudden death) for 30 to 50%. The polyphenols from red wine (such as resveratrol) prevent clots that, when situated at the narrow points of blood vessels, cause the obstruction known as “heart attack”.
4. Protecting the brain after a stroke
Scientists from the Johns Hopkins University discovered a way in which red wine consumption can protect the brain from damage after a stroke. They found out that resveratrol can potentially cause the brain to be resistant to an ischemic stroke.
The research also discovered that resveratrol increases the level of the enzyme (heme oxygenase) that is known to protect the nerve cells from damage. In the moment of a stroke, the brain is ready to protect itself due to a higher level of this enzyme.
Scientists have also determined that moderate consumption of red wine helps the brain to purge various toxins, including those associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Moderate alcohol consumption reduces the risk of dementia, while excessive use can have a detrimental effect on the whole cognitive system (primarily due to ethanol).
5. Enhanced lung operation and prevention of lung cancer
Scientists from the University of Illinois in Chicago claim that both red wine and resveratrol can be efficient killers of bacteria that are known to cause lung infections such as pneumonia and bronchitis.
Doctor Brian W. Carlin from the Drexel University of Medicine in Philadelphia has determined that people who consume wine moderately have greater lung capacity and reduced risk of airway congestion.
Drinking red wine reduces the chances for lung cancer, primarily due to the antioxidants present in wine. It has been shown that, on average, every glass of red wine that you drink a month reduces the risk of lung cancer for about 2%.
6. Protection from prostate cancer
By analysing the data gathered from more than 600,000 men who participated in several studies, scientists have discovered that moderate consumption of red wine can reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but they have also discovered that white wine can increase this risk.
The reason behind this is that red wine contains higher levels of resveratrol, found in the skin of the grape. Scientists claim that people who consume red wine in moderation have a 12% reduced chance of developing this disease.
7. Teeth health
Red wine can help remove bacteria from teeth. Bacteria cause the formation of an acid that causes teeth damage over time.
Swiss scientists from the University of Zurich have analysed the way in which red wine consumption can in fact have a positive effect on the health of the mouth.
Polyphenols found in wine (and are its active compound) can slow the growth of streptococci. Streptococci is a group of bacteria found in the mouth, and research has shown that polyphenols found in wine can fight them off.
Research published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that red wine antioxidants stop the bacteria that cause plaque and stick to teeth.
8. Reducing depression effects
New research has discovered that red wine is an excellent weapon in the fight against depression and anxiety. This is due to the polyphenol resveratrol that causes the anti-stress effect by controlling the enzyme responsible for stress in the brain.
Professor Ying Xu from the University of Buffalo says: “Resveratrol may be an effective alternative to drugs for treating patients suffering from depression and anxiety disorders”.
Scientists from South Carolina have hypothesized that resveratrol may affect neurological problems and prevent the effect depression has on behaviour.
9. Influencing bone density
A scientific research published in the Oxford Academic Journal has discovered that resveratrol found in red wine can increase the bone density in the spine in men who suffer from metabolic syndrome. They have discovered that resveratrol possesses anti-inflammatory qualities that may prevent the loss of bone mass by stimulating the cells responsible for the creation of bone tissue.
A research conducted in Australia published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition confirmed that red wine contributes to bone health in older men. Scientists have discovered a link between increased mineral bone density (BMD) and the consumption of red wine in men aged between 50 and 80 years.
Men who drink a glass or two of red wine a day have greater bone density than people who do not drink, but those who cross the limit of moderate drinking have a significantly lower BMD. It is suggested that alcohol may help in building bone mass by increasing estrogen levels.
10. Reducing stress levels
Resveratrol influences the proteins that activate certain genes that fix DNA, suppress cancerogenic genes and stimulate longevity genes.
A glass of red wine a day helps you stress less ?. The best way to achieve this is to have a glass of wine over supper, but not directly before going to sleep. This may have a relaxing effect on you, without disturbing your sleep cycle. The effects of red wine in reducing stress levels are not applicable to pregnant women.
Resveratrol causes the anti-stress effect by controlling the enzyme responsible for stress in the brain.
When it is under stress, the body produces the hormone corticosterone. Excessive stress may cause the hormone to circulate around the brain, which may lead to mental health problems. Resveratrol may help in the protection against corticosterone.
Out of all the polyphenols in wine, resveratrol is the most potent reason why red wine is good for your health.
Now that you are aware of the benefits of resveratrol in red wine, you can relax and enjoy a glass of wine.
Good news for people who are not wine-enthusiasts (if there are any ?) is that resveratrol is also found in peanuts, pistachio, blueberries, cranberries, and even cocoa and dark chocolate.
And a final advice for wine-lovers: drink in moderation!
An extra glass of red wine actually represents the line between the good effects of red wine and the bad ones.
About me ?
An economist by profession, a gastro enthusiast by choice.
I am studying at the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET).
I’ve also studied the production of brandy and liqueur at Velika Gorica.
I have five years experience selling and promoting Croatian gastronomic products.
My goal in particular is to promote small local Croatian producers and present the best of Croatian gastro products to our costumers.
In my spare time I hangout with my family and friends, read books and play sports.