For years, the consumption of red wine in moderation has been believed to be linked to a variety of health benefits. In fact, researchers have often celebrated how popular geographic regions studied for their population’s longevity and quality of life, typically known as blue zones, showed a correlation between red wine consumption and a decreased risk of premature death. However, it’s still not clear whether red wine consumption has a direct influence on people living longer lives or if it is perhaps due to a host of psychological factors as well as common daily habits associated with those who consume red wine.
As we continue to take a closer look at red wine and alcohol consumption and study their effects on consumers' overall health, the balance seems to shift toward the opposite side of the spectrum suggesting that wine intake could actually cause more harm than good. It seems to indicate that the health benefits attributed to red wine are at many times influenced by key factors during the production process and the amount of wine being consumed.
Is Red Wine Good for You?
Contrary to popular belief and outdated research, it appears the risks often outweigh the benefits when it comes to red wine consumption. The evidence of red wine containing heart-healthy compounds and cancer-fighting abilities isn’t completely understood. The biggest reason many researchers believe it could have any level of impact on someone’s health seems to be related to the antioxidants found in red wine. However, the antioxidant claim can be deceptive and depends on a variety of factors.
Are There Antioxidants in Red Wine and What Are They?
Red wine does contain some level of antioxidants which are known for their ability to protect us against free radical damage and heart disease. Antioxidants are typically found in fruits and vegetables including grapes, the major ingredient in red wine. The antioxidants present in wine are due to certain characteristics of the grapes, mainly the grape seeds and their skins. The four main types of antioxidants in wine include resveratrol, quercetin, catechin and tannin. Resveratrol, in particular, has been studied for years and evidence has shown that the antioxidant may offer health benefits to improve heart, brain and metabolic health.
Do the Antioxidants in Red Wine Offer Any Health Benefits?
Yes, red wine does contain some levels of antioxidants and it appears that antioxidants seem to offer potentially vital health benefits. However, the problem with red wine is that its antioxidant content is actually so minimal that it actually would require the consumption of approximately 700 bottles of wine daily to achieve the recommended intake needed to see any health benefits! Also, not all wines are made equally which could have a significant effect on any antioxidant levels present. For example, wine produced from grapes darker in color with a thicker skin tends to be higher in antioxidants than wine made with lower-quality grapes with no skin.
If you were considering red wine intake to add more antioxidants to your diet, there are better sources available that contain minimal to no health risks and that are known to have far more antioxidants than red wine. You can always opt for non-alcoholic wine or plain grape juice if you enjoy the taste of red wine.
What are the Potential Health Risks Associated with Alcohol Consumption?
A single glass of wine contains around 12% to 15% alcohol, with some brands offering lower or higher percentages. Most experts believe drinking alcohol, even in moderation, can increase someone’s risk of cancer. This is mainly because most alcoholic drinks contain ethanol, which is a known carcinogenic and inflammatory chemical thought to reduce the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Ethanol’s effect on reducing nutrient absorption may explain the very minimal antioxidant benefits associated with red wine consumption since the ethanol present in red wine may make it more difficult for the already low amount of antioxidants in red wine to be properly absorbed by the body.
Besides red wine’s high ethanol content, unfortunately, it’s not rare for wine producers to add a variety of other carcinogenic contaminants during the production process, such as nitrosamines and asbestos, exacerbating any potential risks.
Even though red wine is believed to have cancer-fighting properties, the presence of inflammatory chemicals make experts question the viability of this statement. Ultimately, any cancer-fighting properties found in red wine are not fully understood and further research is needed to determine what benefits red wine potentially offers, if any, to defend against cancer.
Are There Any Health Benefits to Red Wine?
Although the answer is not clear, a variety of studies show a link between high quality red wine and improved gut microbiome, cognitive improvement, lower risk of diabetes, and more. However, as mentioned above, the answer is not clear on whether these are directly related to red wine consumption or simply due to common patterns observed in wine consumers. For example, could it be that wine consumers are more likely to exercise often and make efforts to reduce their stress levels than those who don’t? This is where more research is needed.
How Much Red Wine Can You Consume?
Even if the health risks and benefits of red wine consumption are not fully comprehended, and experts believe no amount of alcohol to be safe, there are a few recommendations you can follow to lower any potential risks and enjoy a glass here and there:
Try to drink wine with a low percentage of alcohol.
Try to buy high-quality, preferably natural wine, made from dark purple and thick skin grapes, and with no chemicals added.
Abide by the American Guideline limits of one drink or less per day for women, and two drinks or less per day for men. No amount of alcohol has been proven safe during pregnancy; expectant mothers should avoid all alcohol consumption.
Following the above guidelines can help you minimize potential health risks associated with alcohol consumption. You can also consider having your wine with a meal as this can help reduce the speed at which alcohol is absorbed by your bloodstream, therefore protecting your liver.
The bottom line is, if you never considered alcohol consumption or already drink a minimal amount of alcohol, there doesn’t seem to be a reason to add it to your diet. Red wine should not be thought of as some sort of supplement to enhance your diet or a superfood and should be kept as a recreational drink to consume moderately.