One of the questions asked most frequently by my patients is whether wine is good for them. There is much controversy surrounding this subject lately and this is why. While research supports the benefits of drinking wine, particularly red, it also points out that heavy drinking will conversely be detrimental.
So when I am asked that question I explain that wine can be good for you in moderation and as part of an overall healthy diet. In other words the amount of wine you drink matters tremendously. If you drink more than what’s recommended, your health benefits are lost and your health risks go up.
Here’s what’s considered safe and effective:
• Men: No more than two drinks per day.
• Women: No more than one drink per day.
• One drink is defined as a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine
• And no you cannot save up the one or two drinks per day and have them all on the weekend!
Why all the curiosity about wine’s health benefits in the first place? The intrigue started in the 90’s when baffled researchers launched a study of French people, trying to determine why they were not suffering from more heart attacks with diets so high in cheese fats.
The findings showed that it was due to their moderate and steady intake of wine. Long after this discovery, a bevy of research continued to support drinking wine for good health. The first studies show great health benefits from the healing powers of resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grape skins and therefore in red wine. But now they’re also finding just as many benefits from white wines.
All kinds of new findings are cropping up on a daily basis. Take a look at some of the most recent studies that boast the health advantages of wine:
Overall Health Benefits:
• Anti-aging effects in red grape skins (Harvard Medical School in Boston, 2004)
• Reduced risk of death from nearly all causes: According to studies from France, UK, Finland and Denmark, moderate consumption of wine is more beneficial than that of beer or spirits.
• Kidney stones: Red wine intake reduces the risk of kidney stone formation.
• Cancer cells killed by protein in red grape skins (University of Virginia Health System, 2004)
Heart Health Benefits:
• Scientists believe the red wine reduces the risk of coronary heart disease by reducing production of low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boosting high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.
• Coronary heart disease reduced (University of California, Davis, 1995)
• Arteries kept clean by polyphenols in red grape skins (William Harvey Research Institute, 2002)
• Atherosclerosis: Red wine may prevent the initiation and progression of atherosclerosis (hardening or “furring” of the arteries). Both the alcohol and polyphenols in the red wine appear to favorably maintain healthy blood vessels by promoting the formation of nitric oxide (NO), the key chemical relaxing factor that plays an important role in the regulation of vascular tone.
Women’s Health Benefits:
• Decreased ovarian cancer risk (The Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Australia, 2004)
• Stronger bones (Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, St. Thomas’ Hospital in London, 2004)
• Lower risk of stroke (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2001)
Men’s Health Benefits:
• Lower risk of heart attack for men with high blood pressure (Worcester Medical Center in Massachusetts, 2004)
• Hypertension: There is some evidence of favorable effects of red wine on blood pressure. Two glasses of red wine (250 ml); taken together with the meal, lower post-meal blood pressure in hypertensive persons.
It’s great to discover that something you enjoy could actually be healthy. However, I do not recommend that my patients over indulge just because the news is good. A word of caution worth repeating; overdoing anything is a recipe for disaster and can lead to even bigger health issues”. That said, go ahead and enjoy your glass of wine tonight knowing that it is a healthy choice of beverage!
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.