Is wine good for you?
Well, let’s be clear from the start: too much of anything is not good for you. Moderation is key, especially when it comes to alcohol. But in moderation, yes, wine is good for you. And it’s good for you for a number of reasons. Wine, and particularly red wine is rich in polyphenolic compounds including flavanols, anthocynans, and resveratrol. Ok, whoa there nerdy-pants! Translation please?
Let’s start with the first one: flavanols. Flavanols are part of a group of organic compounds called flavonoids. They occur naturally in plants, especially foods like tea, apples, grapes, red wine and cocoa. Of course, what we’re really interested in is the potential health effects, and the research points to some pretty cool benefits like reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, reductions in rates of diabetes, and lowered risk of neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.
Anthocyanins, by comparison, are what give wine grapes their natural colour. These babies are part of a group of polyphenolic compounds (otherwise known as antioxidants). Red and purple coloured fruits and vegetables, like blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, plums, black currants, radishes and red cabbage all contain anthocyanins. Research suggests that these anthocyanins protect the body’s tissues against oxidative stress and some of the diseases that are caused by this oxidative stress like some cancers, coronary heart disease and inflammation.
And finally, Resveratrol is a polyphenol that belongs to the stilbenoids group. It is an antioxidant that acts against pathogens, including bacteria and fungis, and it has been studied for its beneficial effects on a wide range of conditions. Research shows that it exhibits antitumor activity, as well as anti-inflammatory, anticarcinogenic, cardioprotective and neuroprotective effects. Some studies have shown it promotes the clearance of amyloid plaques that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease. And researchers believe it’s part of the reason why European diets, which are often high in saturated fats, don’t result in higher rates of of cardiovascular disease. Scientists call this The French Paradox.
The French Paradox
Basically, the above-mentioned French Paradox, is that in most countries, high intakes of saturated fat are positively related to high mortality from coronary heart disease. Translation? Countries that eat more saturated fat (like cheese, meat, foods cooked in fat and dairy products) tend to have higher rates of heart attacks and heart disease. But France (and some other European nations) doesn’t.
Researchers consider the case in France to be paradoxical because there is a high intake of saturated fat but very low mortality from coronary heart disease. French people eat lots of saturated fat, but they don’t have higher rates of heart attacks and heart disease. Why? Well, researchers believe that part of the reason for this is the relatively high wine intake across the region. Some studies indicate that consumption of wine at the level of intake in France (20-30 g per day) can reduce risk of coronary heart disease due to high saturated fat intake by at least 40%. Yes, really!
Let’s talk moderation
We know, we know… boring! But it’s an important clarification to be made, because a lot of the health benefits associated with moderate wine consumption immediately disappear when that consumption increases beyond what’s considered moderate.
So, what does moderate consumption mean? Well, let’s start with the size of your pour. A standard glass of wine is 100ml. Not 150ml (which is the standard size of a restaurant pour.) It’s hard to manage an exact standard sized drink at home, or with large glasses, so the best way to make sure you’re consuming moderately is, like most things, to measure.
Moderation, in clinical terms, means 1 standard drink for women and 2 standard drinks for men. That’s what’s considered by researchers to be ‘healthy’ and ‘moderate’ wine consumption.
Which is better, red wine or white wine?
Historically, wine drinkers have believed red wine to be a more healthful drink than white wine. The main reason being that early published studies found the skins that are crushed during red wine production appear to be higher in antioxidants, flavanols and other health promoting compounds like the polyphenols resveratrol and anthocyanins. However, a couple of recent studies have brought this belief into question.
One study by the University of Barcelona found that the phenols in white wine had equal, if not higher antioxidants, than those in red wine. And another study, completed by American and Italian researchers, compared the cardioprotective qualities of grape skin extract and grape pulp extract and found them to be equally effective at preventing heart attacks. Their tests also found that tests showed both extracts appeared to have the same level of antioxidant activity. The researchers did concede, however, that the grape skins used in red wine production were naturally higher in anthocyanins (a particular type of polyphenolic and antioxidant compound thought to offer anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-cancer benefits.)
So, what’s the answer? Wine is good for you, full stop. Both red and white varieties are considered to have health promoting properties. But if you really want to max out the health benefits, research suggests that red wine may offer slightly increased benefits over white.
10 reasons wine is a superfood
2. It’s been known to boost the immune system
3. It increases bone density
4. It reduces your risk of stroke
5. It can lower your cholesterol
6. It reduces your risk of heart disease
7. It reduces your risk of Type 2 Diabetes
8. It may reduce your risk of cancer
9. It may improve cognitive function and reduce your risk of neurodegenerative conditions
10. It may promote a healthy lifespan