Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Red Wine?

There is some evidence that drinking red wine may offer health benefits. If you are a non-drinker, health experts do not recommend that you start drinking alcohol. But if you enjoy alcohol in moderation, red wine is worth considering. 

If you've ever wondered why red wine may be healthier than white, the answer is in the grape skins. Before most white wine is fermented, the skins are separated from the mashed fruit and juice. With red wine, the skins remain throughout the fermentation process. Since many of the antioxidants in grapes are in the skin, red wine contains more antioxidants than white wine.

Antioxidants are important for maintaining good health because they protect your cells from damage. The antioxidants found in wine are polyphenols, which are compounds found in plants. You may also hear some of them called flavonoids. One flavonoid of interest to scientists is resveratrol, but red wine contains others.   

Nutrition Information

One serving of red wine is about five ounces. The nutritional value may vary slightly according to the variety. On average, one serving of red wine contains:

  • Calories: 125
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 4 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams
  • Sugar: 1 gram

Red wine also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, including:

Potential Health Benefits of Red Wine

Some benefits of drinking red wine can be traced to the alcohol itself, so any alcoholic drink used in moderation could have the same effect. Other research centers on the particular qualities of red wine, many of which have not been fully explored.

Scientists have found these possible health benefits of red wine consumption:

Blood Pressure Control

The polyphenols in red wine could lower blood pressure. In one study of people with slightly elevated blood pressure, red wine extract lowered readings. Both systolic and diastolic pressure improved. The study concluded that the polyphenols in red wine were responsible. The authors stated that red wine consumption is not a "magic bullet," but could be one contributor to good heart health.

Heart Health

Although some researchers disagree, evidence showing that red wine is good for heart health continues to grow. Some benefits come from the ethanol present in all wine. Ethanol may combine with the polyphenols in red wine to create several positive effects for the heart and circulatory system. Those with heart disease resulting from narrowed blood vessels may benefit most. 

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Cancer Risk Reduction

Resveratrol, one polyphenol in red wine, may reduce the risk of cancer, but this effect has appeared mostly in the lab and not in human studies. Some researchers say that red wine does not contain enough resveratrol to be effective. Still, those who drink red wine have shown a lower risk of colon cancer and prostate cancer. It's possible that the lowered risk is due to other compounds in red wine. 

Reduced Risk of Dementia

One study showed that light to moderate drinking could reduce the risk of dementia, but no type of alcohol was superior to others in producing this effect. Some research has indicated small doses of alcohol may have a beneficial effect on the heart and circulatory system.  

Lower Risk of Diabetes

Some studies show that moderate alcohol intake could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in women. In one study, wine reduced the risk of diabetes for both men and women. Men who drank heavily, and even those who drink 1-3 days a week, had an increased risk of diabetes.

Potential Health Risks of Red Wine

While studies have shown some health benefits of drinking red wine, individuals should weigh the benefits against the risks and keep in mind the dangers of alcohol abuse

Drinking red wine presents some potential health risks:

Wine Allergies

About 10% of the population is at risk of an allergic reaction to wine. Many components of wine can trigger a reaction, including yeast, molds, and sulfites. Even the flavonoids that make red wine healthy can be troublesome. Red wine is the form of alcohol most likely to cause a reaction in people with asthma

Excessive Drinking

Many people have a problem with overconsuming alcohol. The U.S. government includes alcohol guidelines in its Healthy People Initiatives, but many individuals do not follow them. Many consumers, especially heavy drinkers, underreport their alcohol consumption, so the problem is likely worse than reports indicate.  

Pregnancy Concerns

Those who are pregnant should not drink alcohol. This precaution extends to those planning to get pregnant and to those who are breastfeeding. All alcohol should be avoided, including red wine.   

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Alcohol and Gout

People who suffer from gout should not drink at all.  Consumption of alcohol, including wine, can worsen gout symptoms

Liver Damage

Drinking too much alcohol of any kind can damage the liver, leading to conditions such as cirrhosis. Alcohol can even worsen conditions caused by a virus, like hepatitis C.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 29, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Allergologie Select: "Allergic and intolerance reactions to wine."

The American Journal of Medicine: "Alcohol Quantity and Type on Risk of Recurrent Gout Attacks: An Internet-based Case-crossover Study."

Circulation: "Wine and cardiovascular health."

Diabetic Medicine: "Alcoholic intake, consumption pattern and beverage type, and the risk of Type 2 diabetes."

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: "Wine, red."

The Journal of Nutrition: "If You Drink Alcoholic Beverages, Do So in Moderation: What Does This Mean?"

Keck Medicine of USC: "Can a daily glass of wine help prevent cancer?"

Lancet: "Alcohol consumption and risk of dementia: the Rotterdam Study."

Mayo Clinic: "Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?"

Nutrients: "Consumption of a Polyphenol-Rich Grape-Wine Extract Lowers Ambulatory Blood Pressure in Mildly Hypertensive Subjects."

USDA Food Data: "Wine, red table."

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