Wine: How Much Is Good for You?
Studies show wine is heart healthy, but what about the calories?
A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away. Could this be true? WebMD talks
to experts to learn how we can get the health benefits of wine or alcohol while
keeping our weight in check.
Do Like the French?
The French diet is often used as an example of how wine can improve heart
health. The French have a fairly high-fat diet but their heart disease risk is
relatively low. And some have attributed this to red wine.
But there are so many differences between the lifestyle of the French and
Americans from their activity levels to the foods they eat. You cannot isolate
red wine as the magic bullet for disease prevention says Alice Lichtenstein,
DrS, Gershoff Professor at Tufts University.
Choose whichever alcoholic beverage you enjoy, drink it in moderation and
try to have it with meals, advise Lichtenstein and Eric Rimm, DrS, a Harvard
Arthur Agatston, MD, cardiologist and creator of the popular South Beach
diet, encourages patients who enjoy alcohol to also drink it with meals.
"Alcohol can stimulate the appetite so it is better to drink it with food.
When alcohol is mixed with food, it can slow the stomach's emptying time and
potentially decrease the amount of food consumed at the meal," asserts
Agatston. His alcohol of choice is red wine due to the antioxidant resveratrol.
However, he agrees that any alcohol in limited quantity will provide the same
There is a misperception that red wine is abundant in antioxidants. "It does
contain some, but they are not always well absorbed. If you want antioxidants,
you are better off eating a spinach salad with vegetables than drinking a glass
of red wine," Rimm tells WebMD.
Lower Your Cholesterol
Alcohol also can have a very powerful effect and increase HDL "good"
cholesterol by 20% if used moderately and in the context of a healthy diet
along with regular physical activity, says Rimm. Higher HDL levels are linked
to lower risks of heart disease.
"The research evidence points to ethanol, or the alcohol component, of beer,
wine, or spirits as the substrate that can help lower cholesterol levels,
increase 'good' HDL cholesterol," he says.
Boost Your Brain
A recent study shows a boost in brain power for women who enjoy a little
alcohol. The study, published in the Jan. 20 issue of The New England
Journal of Medicine, evaluated more than 12,000 women aged 70-81. Moderate
drinkers scored better than teetotalers on tests of mental function.
Researchers found a boost in brainpower with one drink a day. Moderate drinkers
had a 23% reduced risk of mental decline compared with nondrinkers.