Red wine may offer more than relaxation and sociability. Research suggests red wine may help your heart. Too much red wine can cause health problems, however, so one to two glasses will do.
Studies show that people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, have a lower risk of heart disease, according to the American Heart Association, or the AHA. Some research suggests that red wine, as well as red and purple grape juices, reduces the risk of blood clots, lowers LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol and keeps blood pressure in a healthy range. One 1992 study reported by MayoClinic.com showed moderate consumption of wine reduced the risk of a heart attack by 40 percent. Alcohol or some substances in alcohol may prevent platelets in blood from sticking together, reducing blood clots that could lead to a heart attack, notes the AHA. This is similar to the way aspirin helps prevent a heart attack.
Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart. Resveratrol, a polyphenol in red wine, has received particular attention, notes MayoClinic.com. The levels of antioxidants, such as resveratrol, found in wine varies, with higher amounts in red wine. Research in mice given resveratrol suggests the antioxidant might offer protection from obesity and diabetes, strong risk factors for heart disease. But these results were reported only in mice, not people, and more research is needed.
It’s not known how much red wine you’d need to drink to get the benefits that resveratrol might provide, but moderate consumption of alcohol has shown heart benefits in humans. The American Heart Association defines moderate drinking as one drink per day for women and one to two drinks per day for men. One drink is equivalent to 4 ounces of wine. The limit for men is higher because men typically weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do. Because alcohol can be addictive and may worsen other health problems, the AHA does not recommend that you start drinking red wine for its potential benefits. But if you choose to drink, do so in moderation.
If you have heart disease or heart failure, talk to your doctor before drinking alcohol, cautions the AHA. Alcohol can make heart failure and other heart problems worse. Heavy drinking can also contribute to high triglycerides, obesity, alcoholism, suicide and accidents, notes the AHA. Pregnant women shouldn’t drink red wine or any type of alcohol. All drinks that contain alcohol can be harmful to a developing baby, according to the American Pregnancy Association. There is no safe amount of alcohol to consume when you’re pregnant.
Jan Sheehan is an award-winning medical and nutrition writer, having entered journalism in 1992. She is a former contributing editor for "Parents" magazine. She has also written nutrition articles for "Self," "Fitness," "Ladies' Home Journal," "Health" and other magazines. Sheehan has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Purdue University.