Red wine has long been one of the quintessential pleasures of mankind. Ancient Middle Eastern civilizations drank it, the Romans drank it, and we drink it today in modern society. It is a universal drink which brings people of all different cultures together. From a health standpoint however, it boasts many benefits ranging from the cardiovascular system to combating inflammation in the body.
Red wine biochemistry and benefits
Red wine gets its bitter, yet dry enjoyable taste and color from compounds known as polyphenols (1). These polyphenols allow the wine to remain preserved during the long fermentation process. Polyphenols have two different groups, flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Flavonoids act in many different ways in the body. One of the best mechanisms they possess is to act as an anti-inflammatory. Many groups of flavonoids inhibit prostaglandin synthesis which initiate inflammation. When you look at it, inflammation really is the underlying cause and perpetuator of diseases (4, 6).
Two polyphenol groups in red wine truly possess extraordinary health benefits:
- Resveratrol: a polyphenol that has numerous beneficial properties ranging from increasing memory to helping individuals with blood sugar control issues (3).
- Catechins: a phytochemical class of polyphenols which increase levels of blood plasma antioxidant activity as well as prevent fat from becoming oxidized (8).
Red wine has also been shown as well to increase HDL cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that protects against arteriosclerosis (the hardening of our arteries) and decrease LDL cholesterol levels (1). Even the ethanol content in wine has health benefits and it has been demonstrated that there is an inverse relationship between mild-moderate alcohol consumption and developing coronary artery disease (1).
A doggone interesting red wine study
It is recommended to most individuals when they hit middle age to begin a baby aspirin regiment to help prevent heart attacks or sticking of plaques to arterial walls (7). A novel lab study where they gave dogs red wine (yes, researchers actually gave dogs wine) achieved many of the same effects of acetylsalicylic acid (aspirin), including decreasing platelet aggregation or “stickiness”. The healthy cardiovascular benefits of red wine are similar to the idea behind the baby aspirin regiment.
So red wine is healthy – is it healthier than white wine?
From a health standpoint, the argument would tend to lean towards yes. For every glass of red wine, the phenol content is 200 mg. In contrast, for every glass of white wine, it is only 40 mg of phenols (2). These extra polyphenols = extra health benefits. However, if you are enjoying a meal that calls for the accompaniment of a white wine, you are still going to get a dose of these compounds, just in a lower quantity.
Recommended red wine intake
The Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet suggests an intake of 200-400 ml of red wine per day for men, or in other words, one to two glasses in conjunction with a healthy low carbohydrate diet (5). Women in particular should consume no more than 200 ml (one glass) a day because females tend to metabolize alcohol slower than men do. If you have a history or tendency of addiction towards substances, then naturally you should act responsibly and explore alternative options for polyphenol intake in your diet.
How to pick out a good wine
Truly this comes down to the preference of the each person. Many Spanish red wines actually have higher phenol content averages than wines from other regions of the world. You will find that finer wines, sold at over $30 a bottle, tend to have higher alcohol content. Usually around 13.5-14% ABV. When searching for a wine, I personally try to get one with alcohol by volume content close to 14%.
There’s a plethora of affordable wine options with alcohol content around 14%. Just take the time to carefully read the labels. You will find several options at major grocery chain stores, including Trader Joe’s and Aldi.
How do I know if red wine is healthy for me?
There are many health benefits to enjoying a glass of red wine at night. Research has shown that red wine is cardioprotective. It reduces the oxidative stress levels on the cardiovascular system by scavenging and reducing free radical load. Always remember to consult with your doctor to determine if red wine is personally beneficial to your overall health. Dr. Bobby Koser is currently accepting new patients for nutritional consultations and would be happy to address your specific health needs and concerns. Click here to schedule a free consultation!