We’d all like an elixir that makes us live a long, healthy life. And if that elixir were red wine…all the better! However (of course there’s a however), although red wine might have some potential health benefits, it’s far from being a cure-all. While red wine is more closely linked to health benefits than other types of alcohol, experts suggest that it should still be consumed with caution.1
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In an effort to understand the “French Paradox'” (why French people can indulge in fatty foods but not develop heart disease), red wine came into focus in 1991 on an episode of “60 Minutes.” To test whether red wine could have a protective health effect, researchers have been feeding components of red wine to mice and other animals in an attempt to understand the full health benefits.2
Here’s what we know about red wine and health.
Resveratrol: The Important Flavonoid in Red Wine
Red wine is high in flavonoids (also described as polyphenols), which are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent certain molecules, known as free radicals, from damaging cells. Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in wine.3 It’s also found in some other plant foods, including apples, blueberries, plums, and peanuts.
Resveratrol’s Role in Anti-Aging
According to research, resveratrol has several biochemical effects that may work to prevent disease. Mechanisms of resveratrol action include:5
- It activates the longevity-related protein sirtuin 1 (SIRT1)
- It helps to improve insulin sensitivity
- It improves the function of the mitochondria, which are tiny components of all cells that are altered with aging and disease
Red Wine vs. Calorie Restriction
Calorie restriction plays a complex role in longevity. In part, that’s because calorie restriction can activate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a protein that may spur the “longevity genes” SIRT1 and SIRT2. Resveratrol seems to act along the same pathways and it has been shown to mimic the effect of caloric restriction on the cells and lifespans of yeast, fruit flies, and mice in a laboratory setting.6
If you don’t drink wine, you might be wondering if you should be taking resveratrol supplements as a way to gain the benefits that you have been hearing about. At the current time, experts are not recommending that approach. Overall, despite the results of laboratory studies that point to the benefits of resveratrol, it is still not completely clear whether a specific dose would be effective for fighting disease or whether taking supplements would help prevent illness in humans.7
A Word From Verywell
If you drink wine or any other alcohol, you should do so in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink a day for women and two for men.8
If you drink more than the recommendations for “moderate” drinking, those potential health benefits get canceled out by the health risks associated with a high consumption of alcohol.3
If you don’t currently drink alcohol, there is no need to start! There are many factors that play into your health—and a good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are still likely more beneficial for you than a glass of wine.
Liberale L, Bonaventura A, Montecucco F, Dallegri F, Carbone F. Impact of red wine consumption on cardiovascular health. Curr Med Chem. 2019;26(19):3542-3566. doi:10.2174/0929867324666170518100606
Catalgol B, Batirel S, Taga Y, Ozer NK. Resveratrol: French paradox revisited. Front Pharmacol. 2012;3:141. doi:10.3389/fphar.2012.00141
Snopek L, Mlcek J, Sochorova L, et al. Contribution of red wine consumption to human health protection. Molecules. 2018;23(7). doi:10.3390/molecules23071684
Rauf A, Imran M, Suleria HAR, Ahmad B, Peters DG, Mubarak MS. A comprehensive review of the health perspectives of resveratrol. Food Funct. 2017;8(12):4284-4305. doi:10.1039/c7fo01300k
Park SJ, Ahmad F, Philp A, et al. Resveratrol ameliorates aging-related metabolic phenotypes by inhibiting cAMP phosphodiesterases. Cell. 2012;148(3):421-33. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2012.01.017
Testa G, Biasi F, Poli G, Chiarpotto E. Calorie restriction and dietary restriction mimetics: a strategy for improving healthy aging and longevity. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(18):2950-77. doi:10.2174/13816128113196660699
Ponzo V, Soldati L, Bo S. Resveratrol: a supplementation for men or for mice?. J Transl Med. 2014;12:158. doi:10.1186/1479-5876-12-158
Vidavalur R, Otani H, Singal PK, Maulik N. Significance of wine and resveratrol in cardiovascular disease: French paradox revisited. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2006;11(3):217–225.
Important Notice: This article was originally published at www.verywellhealth.com by Mark Stibich, Ph.D. where all credits are due. Medically reviewed by Jason DelCollo, DO.
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