There’s quite a bit of talk out there about the health benefits of wine, particularly when it comes to heart health.
Wine can be good for you In moderate amounts, especially if red wine is what you usually choose. Red wine can give you an antioxidant boost, reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, and even help you live longer.
But those benefits disappear when moderate drinking turns into drinking too much.
None of this means you should start drinking alcohol if you don’t already indulge from time to time. In fact, the benefits of not drinking alcohol at all outweigh the benefits of typical wine consumption at any level.
Is wine good for you in the long term? It depends on how much you’re drinking and what you’re drinking.
What are the health benefits of wine?
The health benefits of wine include improved heart health, disease-fighting antioxidants, and improved longevity.
Any benefits associated with wine only apply to moderate drinking. That means one drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. Anything beyond that becomes drinking to excess, and increases your risk of a variety of health concerns.
Is wine the healthiest alcohol? Wine, especially red wine, is the healthiest alcohol. Other types of alcohol don’t have resveratrol, a natural phenol that’s behind most of wine’s most impressive benefits.
1. Improved Heart Health
Moderate red wine consumption has been linked to improved heart health, a lower risk of blood clots, and increased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the good kind of cholesterol that reduces your risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Studies show that antioxidants and polyphenols in wine like resveratrol and catechins reduce oxidative stress, slowing the body's production of free radicals.
Too much oxidative stress dramatically increases your risk of heart disease.
Other studies caution that there may be other factors at play. The American Heart Association has studied something called the French paradox, or the idea that the French have a reduced risk of heart disease despite a diet relatively high in saturated fats found in butter and cheese.
Some researchers point to their red wine consumption when looking for a link between diet and cardiovascular disease, but there’s probably more going on here. Their diets are also high in fresh fruits and vegetables, two important components of a heart healthy diet.
It’s also important to note here that drinking less is even better for your cardiovascular health. Too much alcohol can have the opposite effect, including symptoms of heart disease and an increased risk of hypertension.
Those polyphenols found in red wine are also easily found elsewhere. You can get a dose of resveratrol in:
- Red grape skins
- Dark chocolate
- Dietary supplements
If you already have high blood pressure or cardiovascular problems, adding alcoholic wine to your diet isn’t necessary. Instead, seek medical advice before deciding whether to drink at all.
2. Cancer-Fighting Properties
The benefits of red wine (and its most potent compound, resveratrol, in particular) include cancer-fighting properties. One study showed that resveratrol helps both reverse cancer drug resistance and make cancer cells more sensitive to traditional cancer treatments.
This may be thanks again to resveratrol’s potential to reduce oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress has been linked to tumor growth and cancer cell invasion in areas of the body away from the original site of the cancer.
However, wine’s link to reduced cancer risk only applies to moderate drinkers. Once alcohol intake increases, the opposite is true.
3. Improved Diabetes Outcomes
That may make it easier for those with type 2 diabetes to manage their glucose levels, as too much glucose can wreak havoc on the body.
The opposite is true, however, of binge drinking. Excessive amounts of alcohol actually increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. It can also become difficult for your body to decide whether it should metabolize your body’s naturally occurring blood sugar or the alcohol you’ve just consumed.
That can lead to hypoglycemia if you’re not careful.
4. Anti-Aging Effects
The anti-inflammatory effects of polyphenols in red wine also work to fight back against the effects of aging.
As we age, we’re more likely to develop dementia and symptoms of cognitive decline. Light to moderate wine drinking has been linked to a lower risk of dementia and improved memory over time.
Wine’s anti-inflammatory effects may also reduce the risk of conditions affecting the brain as we age. These include Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, although more research is needed to understand how this happens.
Some studies also link wine with longevity. But the concern here is whether we’re placing too much faith in the wine over other healthy habits found in regular wine drinkers.
- A healthy diet, e.g., the Mediterranean diet
- Regular exercise
- Stress reduction
- Healthy sleep patterns
All of those are also important when fighting back against not only aging, but inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.
Which wine is the healthiest?
Red wine like pinot noir or syrah is considered the healthiest wine thanks to its high resveratrol content. Rosé wines also contain resveratrol, but to a smaller extent than red wines.
Not drinking at all is even healthier, though.
If you’re cutting back on alcohol, there’s still a way to stick to those limits and enjoy a glass of wine from time to time.
Dealcoholized wine (also known as NA wine or non-alcoholic wine) allows wine drinkers to enjoy the positive health benefits of wine without the adverse side effects of alcohol.
It’s real wine — without the alcohol.
Surely wines offer the taste of wine with none of the concerns that come with alcohol. If red wine benefits are what you’re after, try a bottle of non-alcoholic cabernet sauvignon.
Even moderate consumption comes with some risk, especially if you shouldn’t be consuming any alcoholic drinks at all.
Is it good to drink wine during pregnancy? It’s not good or safe to drink wine or any alcohol while pregnant or if you want to become pregnant. It’s also not safe to drink alcohol while breastfeeding.
There are additional health risks associated with drinking to keep in mind, even if you’re not expecting.
Liver Disease & Other Conditions
Excessive drinking has the opposite effect of all of those health benefits associated with moderate wine drinking.
Too much alcohol can damage your liver cells, cause liver scarring or cirrhosis, and lead to alcohol-related liver disease.
Heavy drinking can also lead to:
- Increased cancer risk
- Heart problems
- Increased stroke risk
- High blood pressure
- Digestive problems
Limited white wine consumption and wine consumption overall doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll immediately start putting on weight, especially if you’re following a balanced diet. It’s when that occasional glass of champagne becomes a regular habit that you can lose sight of those healthy habits.
Regular drinking means you’re adding empty calories into your diet that may not need to be there. If you’re prone to overeating or turning to junk food after drinking, that only increases your risk of gaining weight over time.
Drinking too much can cause problems with your sleep patterns. It may seem like that glass of red wine puts you to bed much faster, but over time, your body may suffer from the lack of restorative sleep you’re getting after drinking.
Larger amounts of alcohol can keep you from getting to the REM sleep stage of your sleep cycle. REM sleep is essential to overall cognition, including memory.
That’s why it can feel like you’re in a fog the morning after drinking. In a way, you are. Your brain wasn’t given the rest it needs to be at its best the next morning.
A lack of good sleep can also affect your mental health and overall mood. Personal relationships can suffer as a result, on top of the added anxiety of managing your own mental health if you’re not feeling your best.
It is easy to abuse alcohol if you’re not careful. Drinking to excess can become problematic if you find yourself needing to drink on a daily basis. Alcohol dependency increases your risk of accidents and injury and impacts your daily functioning.
If you need think you need help with alcohol abuse or are suffering from the effects of alcohol abuse, contact these support groups:
Your primary care physician can also connect you with wellness centers or local service providers that will work with your health insurance. If you or a close family member has a history of alcoholism, you may want to avoid alcohol altogether.
Is it good to drink wine every day?
It’s generally considered safe to drink wine every day if you keep it to no more than a glass or two.
While there is solid evidence to show that there are some benefits of wine, there’s more evidence to show that abstaining from alcohol is even better for you.
Thankfully, you can now get both the health benefits of wine and the benefits of not drinking — all from the same bottle.
- Red Wine Consumption and Cardiovascular Health
- Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review
- The Role of Resveratrol in Cancer Therapy
- Oxidative stress, inflammation, and cancer: How are they linked?
- Alcohol’s Effects on Breast Cancer in Women
- Alcohol consumption and cancer risk
- Alcohol and type 2 diabetes. A review
- Risk of dementia and alcohol and wine consumption: a review of recent results
- Wine: An Aspiring Agent in Promoting Longevity and Preventing Chronic Diseases
- Alcohol consumption, blood pressure, and the risk of stroke
- Mechanisms of alcoholic pancreatitis
- Alcohol's role in gastrointestinal tract disorders
- Effects of moderate consumption of white wine on weight loss in overweight and obese subjects
- Type of alcoholic beverage and incidence of overweight/obesity in a Mediterranean cohort: the SUN project
- Alcohol consumption and sleep quality: a community-based study