Wine can be a wonderful thing. As a compliment to the right food, wine heightens the flavor and enhances the dining experience. As a late afternoon drink with friends, it can lighten the mood and make your time more memorable. And recently, wine has been touted as healthy when used in moderation. However, the potential harms of excessive alcohol use are well recognized. So… is wine healthy or not? Are there actually real benefits of drinking wine?
As is the case with many such questions, the answers need a little explanation. While experts don’t know everything there is to know about alcohol and health, much has been revealed. From the benefits of drinking wine to ways alcohol may reduce disease, more is known today than ever before.
The Benefits of Drinking Wine – What Science Has Shown
Red wine is believed to be healthier than white. However, both red and white wines contain substances that can be healthy. Specifically, antioxidants called polyphenols account for some of the benefits of drinking wine. Resveratrol, a polyphenol, is in the skin of the grape, which is associated with lowering LDL cholesterol levels. Because red wine allows the skins to stay in fermentation longer, it has a higher resveratrol content. But at the same time, white wine has a fair amount as well.
All types of alcohol have some health benefits. Studies that have examined alcohol use show that alcohol improves insulin activity and lowers diabetes risks. Also, alcohol improves HDL cholesterol and protects the lining of your arteries. This explains why alcohol reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Is Wine Healthy for Everyone?
Of course, understanding the benefits of drinking wine and other alcoholic beverages doesn’t necessarily mean you should partake. The American Heart Association does not recommend anyone to start drinking who do not currently drink. Likewise, many people simply do not care for alcohol and the way it makes them feel. Plenty of other activities can be pursued to enhance your health including diet, exercise and stress management.
It is also important to appreciate those who should not drink alcohol. For example, women who are pregnant or those who have liver disease or heart failure should not drink alcohol. Also, people with personal or family histories of alcoholism should also avoid drinking alcohol completely. And some medications can adversely interact with alcohol, making drinking a risky choice. In these situations, the risks far outweigh the benefits of drinking wine.
The Goldilocks Question – How Much Is Too Much Versus the Right Amount?
When it comes to the benefits of drinking wine or alcohol, moderation is key. In fact, the health benefits of drinking wine involve light to moderate use only. For women, this means one drink a day, and for men, two drinks a day. Consuming more not only undermines the health benefits of drinking wine but can lead to illness and disease. Excessive alcohol use has been linked to a number of conditions including liver disease, heart failure, stomach ulcers, and hypertension. Thus, when asking is wine healthy, the answer is yes, in moderation.
Of course, one glass of wine a day does not mean a 22-ounce tumbler. By definition, a single alcoholic drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. Therefore, a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine, and a 1.5-ounce drink of liquor are all considered a single drink. It is also worth noting the different allowances for men and women for alcoholic drinks. This is due to weight and metabolism differences. Men tend to weigh more, and men also have higher amounts of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol in the body.
The Bottom Line When It Comes to Drinking Wine
If you enjoy wine and have no reason to avoid it, light to moderate use can actually be healthy. Likewise, drinking one to two glasses of wine a day has been shown to improve some health conditions. But at the same time, eating well, exercising, and leading a balanced life is similarly important. Also, polyphenols, including resveratrol, can be found in other foods besides grapes. Peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries also contain this antioxidant.
Though the benefits of drinking wine do exist, it is not essential for you to drink alcohol daily or at all. As always, your specific circumstances matter, and only you can decide what is best for your health.