Red Wine is frequently linked with health benefits. In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the health section of the national newspapers weren’t created specifically to showcase new findings. The benefits are the result of several compounds within grape skins, released during the lengthy fermentation process that gives Red Wine its colour: resveratrol is the polyphenol behind a lot of these benefits.
Generally, it has been shown that people who choose Red Wine over other beverages are likely to live longer, but scepticism abounds and not without reason. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that people who drink red wine, which generally costs more than Beers, Ciders and many other common drinks, simply have a better overall quality of life. Nevertheless, studies that have looked closer at the phenomenon have thrown up evidence that compounds within red wine lead to longer life and a greater chance of avoiding certain serious diseases.
1. Circulatory / Heart Disease
All alcohols contain so called ‘good cholesterols’, High Density Lipoproteins that reduce production of their harmful, low density counterparts. In Red Wine, HDLs are boosted by around 16 per cent, meaning more cholesterol is distributed to the liver rather than the arteries. The fact that Red Wine helps prevent Heart Disease is relatively widely known. Significantly, as a component of the alcoholic content, this is one of the benefits for which you must drink Red Wine, as opposed to non-alcoholic grape extracts.
You’re also less likely to suffer blood clotting or thrombosis if you drink wine, as it lowers levels of protein fibrinogens that cause their formation. The prevention of atherosclerosis is another circulatory arrow in the quiver of this fine drink. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries in old age, dependent on the formation of nitric oxide, which red wine is effective in promoting.
2. Cognitive Health
When resveratrol was administered to animals in one experiment, the senile plaque formation that happens during the aging process was significantly reduced. These harmful amyloid deposits are associated with the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. In mice, resveratrol was also able to significantly reduced the brain damaging effects of a (medically induced) stroke.
3. Sleeping, and Stress
The Melatonin present in many varieties of Red Wine is a naturally occurring compound that helps with the regulation of sleep patterns in animals. Just as you might take a Melatonin supplement to help you sleep, getting out the glassware to enjoy a measure before bed can be an effective night-cap! Wine also fights stress more generally, even if only because of the way we deliberately slow down and relax to enjoy it.
Red Wine is said to reduce the effect of smoke on a certain layer of cells in the circulatory system (the endothelium layer). People who smoked one cigarette and drank two glasses of wine did not suffer the same arterial dysfunction as when they smoked without drinking. Of course, this will probably not be useful to anyone but the lightest smokers. However, smokers who drink one glass of red wine a day have been as much as 60% less likely to get lung cancer.
Most recently (and perhaps, most controversially) drinking red wine was said to help those with a sedentary lifestyle. When tested on immobilised mice, resveratrol kept the mice relatively healthy whilst the control group lost muscle mass, strength and bone density. The finding may be important for Astronauts on long journeys, but Red Wine is unlikely to be a substitute for exercise on a human scale, at least for a sustained period.
Of course, the benefits of Red Wine establish themselves over time with moderate drinking. Moderation is key here: remember that the adverse effects of intoxication will shave more of your life than you’ll ever gain through resveratrol. A healthy amount of red wine is no more than three glasses a day, likely only two if you have a low body-weight or lesser metabolism. It’s important to understand that whilst there are very good reasons for drinking Red Wine, they’re not there to excuse any bad habits you might have! Drink responsibly, have fun and be healthy.
Jo Johnson is a wine fanatic and writer for wine accessories website Wineware, who offer everything from wine racks to decanters.