By now you’ve probably heard the news: drinking wine is good for your health. But with so much information flying around about which types of wine to drink, how much to drink and whether or not wine actually does what proponents claim, you might be thinking it’s easier to just have a martini instead.
Before you break out the gin, take a look at these proven health benefits of wine. Keep in mind, the greatest benefits come from moderate alcohol consumption, defined as one five-ounce glass of wine for women and one or two glasses of the same size for men.
Improves Cardiovascular Health
Drinking red wine is good for your heart. While all sources of ethanol, the type of alcohol found in wine, can help increase HDL, or “good” cholesterol, and reduce atherosclerosis, a thickening of the artery walls, red wine offers some specific cardiovascular benefits not found in other sources of alcohol. The skin of the grapes used to make red wine contains resveratrol, which is considered to be the main source of wine’s health benefits. Resveratrol not only helps reduce plaque buildup in the arteries and prevents blood clots from forming (which reduces risk of stroke), it’s also an antioxidant, which helps prevent cell damage. The result, according to a study at the Harvard School of Public Health, is that wine drinkers with high blood pressure are 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack than those who don’t drink wine.
And the heart benefits don’t stop there. The tannins in red wine contain the antioxidant procyanidin, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease. While all wines contain procyanidin to some extent, when you’re shopping an online wine store, look for wines from southwest France and Sardinia for varieties that contain the biggest dose of these heart-healthy antioxidants.
Slows Decline of Brain Function
In 2008, a team of researchers from Oxford University discovered that those who enjoy red wine (as well as chocolate and tea) each day have a decreased risk for Alzheimer’s or dementia, and had better cognitive skills than those who did not drink wine. The researchers attributed the increased brain function to flavonoids in the wine – specifically, the resveratrol found in the grape skins. However, the news wasn’t all good. The slowed decline in brain function appeared among those who drank wine in moderation. Heavy drinkers actually had a greater chance of brain conditions; in fact, heavy drinking is believed to be one of the causes of dementia.
Lowers Risk of Certain Cancers
Resveratrol is also beneficial in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, prostate, colon and lung. Researchers believe that the flavonoid attacks the enzymes that contribute to tumor growth, helps kill cancer cells and blocks the development of blood vessels that support the growth of tumors. Again, these benefits are primarily limited to those who stick to one or two drinks per day, as higher levels of alcohol consumption have been linked to an increased risk of cancers of the breast, esophagus, pharynx and larynx, liver, ovaries and stomach.
Reduces Risk of Diabetes
A twelve year study at the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam found that those who enjoy a glass of wine each day have a 30 percent lower risk of developing Type 2 diabetes than those who do not imbibe. Again, the benefit is attributed to resveratrol, which decreases insulin resistance and helps prevent fat accumulation. However, because wine can be high in calories (the typical glass of wine contains between 100 and 150 calories) downing multiple glasses each day boosts your daily calorie intake which can lead to weight gain and increased health issues — more evidence that light to moderate consumption is best.
Clearly, the reduced risk of common health issues are a major contributor to wine’s influence on longevity, but the fact remains that wine drinkers have a lower mortality rate than those who choose beer or liquor. Some researchers believe that moderate wine consumption is so beneficial because it often comes in tandem with other healthy lifestyle choices, like exercising and following a healthy diet. No matter what the reason, wine drinkers tend to live longer.
In general, red wine tends to be credited with more health benefits than white wine, as the grape skins that contain most of the healthy antioxidants are removed to produce white wine. That being said, white varieties still have some benefits, so pour yourself a glass of your favorite vintage, kick back and know that you’re doing something great for yourself and your health.