Merlot is a variety of red wine and, like other red wines, has been linked to specific health benefits in moderate drinkers. If you enjoy an occasional drink with dinner or after work, choosing a glass of merlot can potentially benefit your health in ways that other alcoholic beverages can't.
The primary beneficial component in merlot is resveratrol, a compound produced by grapes that is concentrated when the grapes are converted into wine. Much of the research around resveratrol has focused on its effects on the heart. According to the Mayo Clinic, resveratrol may help protect blood vessel linings, reduce cholesterol and prevent blood clots. Further research is needed to determine the specific effects of resveratrol on the heart and to determine whether red wine has enough of this beneficial compound to cause noticeable effects in people who regularly drink it.
Scientists from the University of Barcelona reported in the May 2012 issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" that resveratrol exerted a prebiotic effect. Essentially, this compound in merlot helps boost the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract, which may help protect you from gastrointestinal illness and reduce inflammation in the body. While most research on gut bacteria focuses on taking probiotics, such as those found in yogurt, this study suggests that you might be able to help your existing gut flora by drinking a glass of merlot or other red wine each day.
In May 2012, scientists presented research at the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society that indicated a link between resveratrol intake and better mobility in old age. Also, a 2008 study in the "Journal of Nutrition" linked red wine consumption to better cognitive performance in older adults. Other health benefits have been linked to red wine consumption in animal models, including protection against diabetes and obesity, but human studies are still needed, according to the Mayo Clinic.
The key to gaining the benefits of merlot is to drink responsibly. Drinking more than one drink per day if you are female or two drinks a day if you are male can potentially cause more harm than good. One drink is considered to be 5 ounces of wine. If you do not currently drink, do not start drinking merlot in an attempt to gain health benefits.
Bridget Coila specializes in health, nutrition, pregnancy, pet and parenting topics. Her articles have appeared in Oxygen, American Fitness and on various websites. Coila has a Bachelor of Science in cell and molecular biology from the University of Cincinnati and more than 10 years of medical research experience.