Are There Health Benefits to Drinking Wine?

Wine has been an important part of cultural, social, and religious traditions for thousands of years. It’s made from grapes that are crushed and left to ferment over time. This process forms yeast, which transforms the fruit sugars into alcohol.

Wine has a long history of medicinal uses. It’s been prescribed as a tonic for longevity. Even medieval monasteries claimed that the monks’ long lifespans were partly due to drinking wine.

Modern research has looked further into wine’s health-boosting potential. Scientists noticed that people in France showed a lower risk of dying from heart disease than those in other countries — despite a diet high in saturated fat. Researchers believed this might be due to the population’s average wine intake.

It’s well-documented that heavy alcohol consumption of any kind can cause serious health issues. But studies show that when consumed in moderation, wine may offer some benefits to long-term health. 

Nutrition Information

A 150-milliliter serving of red wine contains: 

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

Wine is a source of: 

It also contains magnesium. This mineral can help lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. 

The nutritional value of red and white wines is very similar. White wine contains fewer calories at 121 per 150-milliliter serving, while red wine has a slightly higher vitamin and mineral content. Red wine contains almost 10 times the amount of polyphenols (plant compounds that have antioxidant properties) as white wine.

White wine is made mostly with white grapes, and the skin is removed before the fermentation process. Red wine is made from red or black grapes, and the skin is not removed before fermentation.

Potential Health Benefits of Wine

Wine is a rich source of antioxidants that can help promote better health. However, drinking high amounts of any alcohol can contribute to health problems.

Studies associate these health benefits with low to moderate wine drinking:

Potentially Lowered Cancer Risk

The antioxidants in wine fight cell damage in our bodies caused by aging, environmental factors like pollution, and lifestyle. By preventing and reversing this cell damage, a diet high in antioxidants can reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases, including cancer.

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Studies show a link between moderate wine consumption and reduced rates of most cancers. Scientists think this is because our bodies may better absorb wine’s antioxidants than those found in many foods.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Wine contains flavonoids, anthocyanins, and other plant-based antioxidants shown to reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation is a natural defense mechanism the body uses to heal. But too much inflammation for extended periods of time is linked to chronic diseases like arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, and lung disease

Healthy Blood Vessels

Red wine’s antioxidant content also includes resveratrol. This nutrient can lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol that damages arteries and causes plaque build-up. Resveratrol also raises HDL (“good”) cholesterol that helps improve blood flow. 

While white wine has no resveratrol content, it contains other antioxidants, like tyrosol, that have similar cholesterol effects. Research suggests that while these antioxidants are available in some fruits, our bodies absorb them better when consumed in wine.

Lower Risk of Heart Disease

Resveratrol's cholesterol-lowering properties can reduce strain on your cardiovascular system, helping to avoid heart disease. The antioxidant also helps widen your blood vessels. This effect supports good circulation, increases blood flow, and reduces the risk of clots that cause strokes and heart attacks.

Research looking at wine drinkers’ health over time supports these findings. Studies show that compared to non-drinkers, people who consume moderate amounts of wine had a significantly lower risk of premature death from heart attacks and other heart diseases. 

Potential Risks of Wine

Wine’s potent antioxidant activity may offer great health benefits, but drinking too much of any alcohol can cause health risks. Talk to your doctor to make sure alcohol is safe to include in your diet and consume it in moderation. 

Health risks associated with drinking wine include:

Liver Disease

Long-term alcohol consumption can cause liver inflammation, scarring, and organ failure

Heart Disease

While wine’s antioxidants can promote heart health, heavy drinking over time can increase your blood pressure and damage the heart muscle.

Unwanted Weight Gain

Wine contains a lot of calories per serving. Even moderate drinking affects your daily caloric intake, which at high levels can cause weight gain.

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Increased Risk of Some Cancers

Heavy drinking is linked to some cancers, including mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, pancreas, and breast.

Dependence

Alcohol can cause physical and psychological dependence. Scientists believe that some people are more genetically prone to alcohol abuse and addiction. Long-term alcohol dependence can weaken your immune system and affect your body’s stress response, which increases your risk for many chronic diseases.

Pregnancy Concerns

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy increases the risk of birth defects, premature birth, fetal alcohol syndrome, and miscarriage. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, doctors recommend you avoid alcohol. 

Healthier Alternatives

Wine is loaded with powerful antioxidants, but you can get these natural health boosters from other sources like fresh fruits and vegetables. 

A healthy lifestyle, diet, and exercise routine will also offer you many of the health benefits associated with drinking wine.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 17, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Alcohol Research & Health: “Alcohol Dependence, Withdrawal, and Relapse.”

Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: “Evidence for circulatory benefits of resveratrol in humans.”

Bulletin of University of Agricultural Sciences and Veterinary Medicine Cluj-Napoca Food Science and Technology: “Benefits of Wine Polyphenols on Human Health: A Review.”

Cancer Research and Treatment: “Light Alcohol Drinking and Risk of Cancer: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies.”

Cleveland Clinic: “6 Surprising Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health — Not Just Your Liver.”

Diseases: “Is a Meal without Wine Good for Health?”

Drugs Under Experimental and Clinical Research: “Bioavailability of tyrosol, an antioxidant phenolic compound present in wine and olive oil, in humans.”

ESHA Research, Inc., Salem, Oregon: “Wine.”

Harvard T.H. Chan: “ The Nutrition Source.”

Harvard Medical School: “Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits.”

Heart: “The French paradox: lessons for other countries.”

Journal of Cardiovascular Disease Research: “Red wine: A drink to your heart.”

Mayo Clinic: “High cholesterol.”

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

Molecular Nutrition & Food Research: “Bioavailability of trans-resveratrol from red wine in humans.”

Molecules: “Contribution of Red Wine Consumption to Human Health Protection.”

National Health Service: “Drinking alcohol while pregnant.”

National Institutes of Health. “Magnesium.”

Piedmont Healthcare: “Which wine is healthier for you—red or white.”

StatPearls: “Chronic Inflammation.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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