What Are The Health Benefits of Wine
Are you willing to believe all the red wine health claims? Year after year we read bold headlines proclaiming the health benefits of wine, and they’re always accompanied by as many headlines claiming the opposite. So, are there really any health benefits in drinking wine? Well, yes, but only as long as you drink in moderation. Just in case you haven’t heard this ad nauseam already, a moderate amount of wine is 5 ounces per day for women, and double that for men.
The substance most often mentioned when discussing the health benefits of drinking wine is resveratrol. This is an organic compound that allegedly contributes to longevity (the operating word here being “allegedly” as there is not enough clinical research of its effects on people). The substance is more present in red wine than white. Interestingly, Malbec is the variety that contains the highest levels of resveratrol (and bonus points if you can pronounce resveratrol right after a bottle of wine).
All jokes aside, we’ll now list ten of the most common red wine health claims. We will tell you what they are based on. And tell you any potential counter-arguments to these claims. Finally, we will let you know whether you should take them seriously.
10 Red Wine Health Claims
Red Wine Health Claims 1: Drinking wine helps cut risk of all sorts of cancer
As you may well be aware, one of the main causes of cancer is the build-up of free radicals (or, rather, the damage they cause, as free radicals are by definition short-lived). It is believed that antioxidants present in wine may help repair the damage caused by free radicals. It may even increase the number of white blood cells in your body.
Moreover, resveratrol has been proven to block the formation of cancer cells, although this is based on lab-work. On the flipside, in vivo studies are fewer and the results are more inconsistent, so the jury is still out on that point.
The detractors of this claim (that wine reduces the risk of cancer) point out that alcohol actually increases the risk of cancer (which is true enough). They argue in favor of complete abstinence. However, what they overlook is the quantity of red wine consumed. The general consensus is that those who booze moderately are at virtually no risk.
Claim 2: Drinking wine helps keep weight off
Despite sounding counterintuitive, this claim is actually correct. It’s based on a report from 2010 that suggests women who are light drinkers (no pun intended) will gain less weight compared to their nondrinking counterparts.
The reason behind this, however, may be linked to the fact these women felt more energized and burned more calories after boozing. In other words, the wine didn’t make them passively lose weight, but rather motivate them to be more active and lose weight through physical activity. Either way, the numbers don’t lie. This is one of the red wine health claims that looks accurate enough.
Claim 3: Drinking wine keeps you mentally nimble
Numerous studies connect drinking wine with good mental health and keeping your mind sharp as you enter your golden years. For example, a study from Germany suggests that a glass (for women) or two (for men) a day can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s. Similarly, a 2006 study from Columbia University shows that moderate boozing slows brain decline. We consider this as one of the red wine health claims with enough empirical evidence to rate it as accurate.
Claim 4: Drinking wine helps you conceive
A study in the US has found that moderate intake of alcohol can boost fertility, connecting it to the abundance of antioxidants in red wine. That said, an older study from Denmark suggests that fertility decreases the more alcohol you drink. To be fair, though, the researchers didn’t specify the type of drink, just the amount. Plus, the results regarding moderate consumption are inconclusive, at best.
All in all, this claim seems to be accurate, but we’ll leave it at unclear until more evidence is available. In general, we agree with the consensus that all alcohol consumption should stop during pregnancy. There is plenty of evidence that drinking wine or any other alcohol while pregnant is dangerous for the developing baby.
Claim 5: Drinking wine cuts risk of vision loss
A 2003 study from Iceland claims that people who drink are less likely to develop cataracts (by 32 percent), and even less likely if they prefer wine over beer (by a whopping 43 percent). By all accounts, this claim about health benefits of wine is true.
We will keep watching for new studies and see if this is one of the red wine health claims that holds up.
Claim 6: Drinking wine cuts the risk of heart attack
If you haven’t heard of a phenomenon known as the French paradox, here’s the gist of it – people who live in parts of France where wine is often enjoyed experience fewer cases of heart attacks (as a result of coronary heart disease – the two aren’t the same). The paradox is in that drinking wine on a daily basis isn’t considered a healthy lifestyle in most developed countries.
We only mentioned the French paradox since it’s the source for this particular claim – that wine reduces the risk of heart disease. This claim is supported by a number of studies, one of which concludes that tannins from red wine, specifically substances called procyanidins, protect your heart (particularly red wines from the west of France and Sardinia).
Claim 7: Drinking wine reduces risk of stroke
This claim is based on common knowledge in the main, but hard evidence for it comes in a number of studies conducted over decades. Specifically, a study from Columbia University shows that the chance of suffering a stroke caused by a blood-clot almost halves if you drink a glass of wine a day.
Claim 8: Drinking wine cuts risk of type 2 diabetes
Wine, red wine, in particular, is considered to be a good addition to any diabetic diet plan. Several unrelated studies (for example, a 12-year-long study from VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, or a 2008 study from UMass Amherst) show that wine may help prevent spikes in blood sugar levels by inhibiting the enzymes that allow glucose to pass through small intestines. Both red and white wine can do this, but seeing that red wine contains much more polyphenols (which act as antioxidants), it is hands down the winner.
Claim 9: Drinking wine [is good for your teeth]
Sounds funny, but is it? Apparently, a Spanish in vitro study suggests that red wine helps remove bacteria from your teeth, thereby preventing cavities. On first glance, this seems logical – alcohol is an antiseptic, so having a tipple with an ABV content of about 12% should kill the nasty bacteria.
However, a slew of anecdotal evidence (wine-tasters often have wine-stained and eroded teeth) and a number of studies show that the acids in red wine attacks the enamel and make it porous, which in turn leads to the stained and eroded chompers.
Claim 10: Drinking wine may help you live longer
This particular claim is based on the entire history of wine and anecdotal evidence beyond count. However, there are also studies that indicate resveratrol as the magical compound that acts to protect cells from a number of degenerative diseases (we already talked about how wine cuts the risk of cancer). It also helps you stay mentally agile even in advanced age, and keep your skin in good shape by renewing collagen and elastic fibers.
We said it ad nauseam, but here it goes again – all of these health benefits of wine won’t be worth a plugged nickel if you go overboard. So, drink moderately, drink responsibly, and, above all, drink from clean glasses! Cheers!