The fascination of red wine
The effects of red wine on health has always been interesting to me.
It is multifaceted and versatile. It can be a social bond, an escape vice, a religious symbol, a celebratory drink, a drink for dinner, a drink for lunch, there are wine connoisseurs and collectors and there are many varieties.
It has been used for hundreds of different reasons for thousands of years. It leads us to wonder, can this age old beverage contribute to your health?
There has been a ton of speculation over the past few years about the link between red wine and it’s positive cardiovascular effects.
Red wine is derived from a variety of aged red grapes. These grapes contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol. Resveratrol plays a role in preventing damage to blood vessels, reducing “bad” cholesterol in the blood and preventing blood clots.
Research in pigs also found that resveratrol improved heart function and the body’s ability to use insulin. However it should be stated that it has not yet been tested in humans.
Aside from the effects of resveratrol, alcohol in general has been shown to increase the body’s HDL levels or “good” cholesterol. So not only are you decreasing bad cholesterol with red wine but you’re also increasing the good cholesterol.
Scientists from the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom found that moderate intake of alcoholic beverages can increase bone mineral density. High bone mineral density is important to avoid fractures, especially in menopausal women. Results have also been seen in men.
A lot of the aforementioned benefits of red wine are accompanied by some drawbacks.
As mentioned before, alcohol has the potential to raise HDL levels in the blood. However, raising HDL levels can also be accomplished by other means such as physical exercise.
The same goes for resveratrol. Yes, red wine contains a decent amount of resveratrol but there are other non-alcoholic foods that also contain resveratrol like plain grapes, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts.
Though red wine is also a source, here are some reasons why you might want to skip the alcohol.
Alcohol is highly caloric
In just one 5 ounce serving of red wine, there are 125 calories. This may not seem like much but adding 125 calories to your total every day can add extra pounds.
Keep your eye out for liquid calories like these because they don’t necessarily fill you up and people often overindulge in high calorie and fatty foods while consuming alcohol. A double whammy!
Another reason why alcohol should be avoided is because it is an addictive substance. Letting your alcohol consumption habits get ahead of you could lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents.
Bad to the bone?
Consuming more than a moderate amount of alcohol can even have the opposite effects on bone health. Long term alcohol consumption can disrupt the cellular processes that create bone tissue.
This can increase the frequency of bone fractures. This is called secondary osteoporosis because it is early onset osteoporosis caused by a drug or disease. The drug in this case is alcohol.
Everything in moderation…
One serving of wine is 5 ounces.
It is recommended that women have up to one drink per day and men up to 2 drinks per day. Men are capable of drinking slightly more alcohol because of their body mass and the fact that they harbor higher concentrations of a specific enzyme that is responsible for metabolizing alcohol.
Of course if you are pregnant, alcohol is to be avoided. Pregnant women should not consume alcohol in any form as it may cause health defects in the newborn.
It is important to understand that while there are some benefits to drinking red wine, if you don’t currently drink it is not recommended that you start.
But if you do drink red wine, keep in mind before you go ahead to pour that second or third glass that just one can get the job done. You can keep your sense of judgement and you can provide your body with some of the antioxidants it relies on.
Read more from Expert Bonnie Giller.
– Mayo Clinic – Diseases and Conditions: Heart disease – Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?
– American Heart Association – Alcohol and Heart Health
– The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition – Do lifestyle choices explain the effect of alcohol on bone mineral density in women around menopause?