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, red wine boasts many benefits ranging from the cardiovascular system to combating inflammation in the body.
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. In this post, I’m going to focus more on the flavonoid group of polyphenols. Flavonoids act in many different ways in the body, but one of the best mechanisms they possess is to act as an anti-inflammatory. Many groups of flavonoids inhibit prostaglandin synthesis (which initiates the inflammatory cascade) and it is inflammation which is the main underlying cause and perpetuator of disease (4, 6). Additionally, resveratrol is a polyphenol component of wine which has numerous beneficial properties ranging from increasing memory to helping individuals with blood sugar control issues (3). Catechins are a phytochemical class of polyphenols which increase levels of blood plasma antioxidant activity as well as prevent fat from becoming oxidized (8).
Something else many may ask: Is red wine really better than white? The simple answer to this is YES. For every glass of red wine, the phenol content is 200mg. In contrast, for every glass of white wine, it is only 40mg of phenols (2). You want these extra polyphenols, but if you are enjoying a meal that calls for the accompaniment of a white wine, you are still getting a low dose of these compounds. Remember, the phenolics in red wine oxidize quickly and make the taste and potency of the drink decreased, so make sure to try to drink whatever you have in your bottle within a day or two. The Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet suggests an intake of 200-400ml of red wine per day, or in other words, one to two glasses (5). For women, an intake of 200ml (one glass) is preferable since they do not metabolize alcohol as readily as men do. It goes without saying to be responsible with your health and enjoyment of such a drink. If you have a history or tendency of addiction towards substances, respect yourself and well-being by exploring alternative avenues of polyphenol intake.
Now, as far as choosing a red wine to drink, most of this is preference to the consumer. Many Spanish red wines have been found to have higher phenol content averages when compared to other regions. However, I typically prefer a range between a nice Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Primitivo over other blends. When searching for a wine, I try to get one with a “high” alcohol content (13.5%-14.5%). I tend to see that the finer wines over $30 being sold have an average alcohol content of 14% and taste much smoother than less expensive wines. Now, $30 for a bottle of wine is typically out of the budget for the typical American wine consumer, so anytime I find a bottle with 14% of higher for less than $12, that is the one I typically choose and is a pretty decent bargain price wise and in terms of quality. Any given day, I find a plethora of 14% content options available ranging from $4.99 to $9.99 when carefully reading labels in nationwide stores such as Trader Joe’s, Aldi, and other major grocery chain stores. The ethanol in wine has health benefits too when consumed in moderation, naturally. Many studies have shown there is an inverse relationship between moderate alcohol consumption and developing coronary artery disease (1).
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 therapy instead of this regiment might be to include a daily red wine consumption regiment of 1-2 glasses to achieve many of the same effects such as acetylsalicylic acid, including decreasing platelet aggregation or “stickiness”. Red wine has been shown as well to increase HDL cholesterol (protective against arteriosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries) and decrease LDL levels (1).
There are many health benefits to enjoying a glass of red wine a night. It has been shown in study after study that it is cardio-protective and reduces the oxidative stress levels on the cardiovascular system by scavenging and reducing free radical load. Naturally, you should consult with your physician to determine is red wine is personally beneficial to your overall health.
- Das S, Santani DD, Dhalla NS. Experimental evidence for the cardioprotective effects of red wine. Experimental & Clinical Cardiology. 2007;12(1):5-10.
- Waterhouse AL. Wine Phenolics. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 May;957:27-36
- Witte AV et al. Effects of resveratrol on memory performance, hippocampal functional connectivity, and glucose metabolism in healthy older adults. J Neurosci. 2014 Jun 4;34(23):7862-70.
- Seaman DR. The diet-induced pro inflammatory state: a cause of chronic pain and other degenerative diseases? J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2002;25:168-179.
- Pérez-Guisado J, Muñoz-Serrano A, Alonso-Moraga Á. Spanish Ketogenic Mediterranean diet: a healthy cardiovascular diet for weight loss. Nutrition Journal. 2008;7:30. doi:10.1186/1475-2891-7-30.
- Manthey JA. Biological properties of flavonoids pertaining to inflammation. Microcirculation. 2000;7(6 Pt 2):S29-34.
- Demrow HS, Slane PR, Folts JD. Administration of wine and grape juice inhibits in vivo platelet activity and thrombosis in stenosed canine coronary arteries. Circulation 1995;91:1182-8.
- Williamson G, Manach C. Bioavailability and bioefficacy of polyphenols in humans. II. Review of 93 intervention studies. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;81:243S-255S.