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Why People Drink Red Wine for Heart Health

Why People Drink Red Wine for Heart Health


10 minute read

Red wine has a lot going for it, according to a lot of popular wisdom out there. A major purported benefit is how it affects your heart health.

Is red wine really good for your heart?

Some studies show that a moderate amount of red wine is good for you and your heart, thanks to all the antioxidant activity in that glass. The antioxidant resveratrol is usually front and center in the debate since it’s been linked to all kinds of heart-healthy outcomes.

The whole truth is a little more complicated, but we can sum it up like this: Red wine can offer some heart benefits for healthy adults. But if you’re not already drinking alcohol, you shouldn’t pick up red wine and expect significant health gains.

Health Benefits of Red Wine

Red wine’s potential health benefits are thanks to its antioxidant activity — primarily one antioxidant, resveratrol. Resveratrol is linked to a lower risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

Resveratrol is a naturally-occurring polyphenol found in plants. In the case of red wine, it comes from the grape skins that give that glass of red wine its vibrant hue. Polyphenols like resveratrol are antioxidants that fight back against inflammation, aging, and even harmful microbes.

White wine and rosé wine also come with some similar benefits. All wines contain beneficial flavonoids or antioxidants linked to reduced oxidative stress. Rosé wine may have one up on white wine since it contains more resveratrol from more interaction with grape skins. 

Red wine is still considered the best option when it comes to types of alcohol that will do the least amount of damage to your heart or even improve heart outcomes.

Which red wine is best for your heart? The best red wine for your heart is a varietal like pinot noir. Pinots are high in resveratrol, low in sugar, and have a lower alcohol content than many bolder reds. 

Malbec, Merlot, and cabernet sauvignon also boast high resveratrol levels, but are higher in tannins than pinot noir. Tannins are great in moderation as natural antioxidants, but might cause headaches for some wine drinkers.

Red Wine Improves Cholesterol

Red wine may have positive effects on HDL (high-density lipoprotein), the “good” cholesterol. In one study, moderate alcohol use increased levels of HDL cholesterol. That’s a good thing. Higher levels of good cholesterol reduce your risk of heart failure and stroke.

That same study showed positive effects on high blood pressure, too, which is an indicator for heart disease down the line. There’s a caveat, though: The patients that saw the biggest positive effects were already relatively healthy.

It’s hard to draw a direct line between red wine and improved cholesterol when a patient is also a fan of regular exercise or the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet. Both of those things are ultimately better for you than red wine.

Does red wine lower cholesterol? Red wine may lower LDL (low-density lipoprotein) (“bad” cholesterol) but studies are inconsistent. It’s more likely that antioxidants in red wine reduce damage caused by too much LDL cholesterol in your body.

Drinking too much can actually increase triglycerides, the fats in your blood that can raise your LDL levels. As with every potential positive health benefit of red wine, the opposite is true when you drink to excess.

Red Wine Can Decrease Risk of Blood Clots

Red wine’s positive effects on HDL cholesterol can reduce your risk of blood clots. Healthy HDL levels help keep your artery walls relaxed and free from plaque buildup. Clogged arteries and damaged blood vessels can lead to blood clots. Complications from blood clots include heart attack, stroke, and other vascular conditions. 

However, excessive drinking can have the opposite effect. Studies show there’s an increased risk of blood clots when you’re intoxicated. If you’re on blood thinners, alcohol can limit the effectiveness of those medications.

Red Wine Reduces Oxidative Stress

Many wine drinkers point to red wine’s effects on oxidative stress as the reason they choose red over any other type of wine. 

Oxidative stress results from free radicals in the body, or reactive oxygen species (ROS), coming up against low antioxidant levels. That imbalance can wreak havoc on your cells and tissues. Pollution, smoking, and a bad diet can all cause oxidative stress.

Researchers point to oxidative stress as a major cause of a variety of health problems, like:

Resveratrol works against this by boosting your antioxidant levels and limiting damage done by free radicals.

Drinking red wine isn’t the only way to fight back against free radicals, though. You can also reduce oxidative stress in these ways:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Load up on fruits and veggies and reduce fats, sugar, and processed foods. Wellness drinks like green tea and golden milk can also fight inflammation.
  • Focus on antioxidants. Resveratrol isn’t the only game in town. Vitamin E, vitamin C, and turmeric all have antioxidant properties that reduce oxidative stress.
  • Get your steps in. Exercise is good for your heart and antioxidant activity — just don’t hit it too hard. If you’re new to working out, high-intensity exercise can increase oxidative stress
  • Reduce stress. Those daily stressors and fatigue can increase oxidative stress. Test out lifestyle changes that will make you feel better from the inside out.
  • Drink less. We’re not trying to confuse you, but if you’re going to drink alcohol, it’s all about balance. Heavy drinking has the opposite effect on oxidative stress than a single glass of wine with dinner.

Is alcohol good for your heart?

Alcohol like red wine may be good for your heart if you don’t overdo it. 

The American Heart Association suggests that light to moderate consumption of red wine is likely fine for most healthy adults. They also caution that drinking less or not all will always be better for your cardiovascular health. 

If you’re not already drinking, moderate alcohol consumption isn’t something you should add to your diet just because of the potential heart benefits. 

Anyone at risk of heart disease or related conditions should abstain from alcoholic drinks altogether. Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you have any risk factors for heart conditions or any existing health problems that may worsen with alcohol consumption. 

Looking to cut back on alcohol, but not wine? Surely’s pinot noir is real wine, without the alcohol. 

How much red wine a day is good for your heart?

A moderate daily amount of red wine may be good for your heart. That means just a single glass of wine per day for women and up to 2 glasses of wine per day for men. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define a glass of wine as 5 ounces, the standard serving size. That’s just over half a cup of wine.

How much red wine is too much? Anything above a moderate amount (5 ounces) is too much red wine for the positive health effects of alcohol consumption.

Heavy drinking is defined as 8 drinks or more per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. That level of drinking could lead to some of the negative heart effects we’ve talked about, especially if you’re already vulnerable.

Moderation is Still the Healthiest Option

Any cardioprotective effects from red wine quickly go away when you go beyond moderate drinking. Heavy drinking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. That includes serious conditions like cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, and cardiac arrhythmias. 

Drinking too much alcohol can also contribute to obesity, a weakened immune system, liver problems, increased cancer risk, and higher blood pressure. 

Most healthy adults can drink moderate amounts of red wine without those ill effects, but it’s also important to note that red wine isn’t the only source of heart-healthy resveratrol. 

Resveratrol in Other Forms

You don’t need to drink wine to benefit from the positive effects of resveratrol. You can find it in all kinds of different foods that you may already enjoy as part of a healthy lifestyle. 

Resveratrol supplements are also an option, but keep in mind that many supplements are synthetic. That means they may come with side effects for some. 

Foods and healthy beverages high in resveratrol include:

  • Grapes 
  • Grape juice (Just watch that sugar content!)
  • Blueberries
  • Peanuts
  • Pistachios
  • Cranberries
  • Cocoa
  • Dark chocolate 

The Most Heart-Healthy Wine

The best option for cardiovascular health will always be drinking less, not more. Abstaining from alcohol altogether is even better, especially because you know it’s the grape skins, not the red wine, that gives you that antioxidant boost.

Whether you want to reduce your alcohol intake or enjoy a healthier glass of wine, non-alcoholic wine is always here for you. Studies show that non-alcoholic wine is just as good for your health as conventional wines, including all those heart-healthy antioxidants.

Here at Surely, we’re confident enough to say that dealcoholized wine is better for you altogether. You don’t have to worry about the risks associated with drinking too much when you’re sipping on non-alcoholic wine.

Surely non-alcoholic pinot noir gives you all the good stuff about red wine without the negative effects of alcohol. Thinking pink? Try our non-alcoholic rosé, and you can have an antioxidant boost without the alcohol.

Sources

  1. Antibacterial and antifungal properties of resveratrol
  2. Tannins and human health: a review
  3. Short-Term Red Wine Consumption Promotes Differential Effects on Plasma Levels of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol, Sympathetic Activity, and Endothelial Function in Hypercholesterolemic, Hypertensive, and Healthy Subjects
  4. Red Wine Consumption and Cardiovascular Health
  5. Alcohol and plasma triglycerides
  6. High-density lipoprotein as a modulator of platelet and coagulation responses
  7. Effect of alcohol intoxication on the risk of venous thromboembolism
  8. Oxidative stress
  9. Treating oxidative stress in heart failure: past, present and future
  10. Strategies for Reducing or Preventing the Generation of Oxidative Stress
  11. Antioxidants and Exercise Performance: With a Focus on Vitamin E and C Supplementation
  12. Red wine, dealcoholized red wine, and especially grape juice, inhibit atherosclerosis in a hamster model

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