Red wine benefits often are touted by those looking for an excuse to drink alcohol, but the reality is this. There is a thin line between those benefits and addiction.
One must respect the drink before they start using it for health reasons. That’s because dependency might develop, and when it comes to drinking wine or any alcoholic beverage, more is definitely not better.
But if you can control your intake, then red wine particularly can be of use. In fact, it has been used medicinally since before biblical times, with the earliest known mentions going back about 8,000 years or so.
While we know more today about what excessive alcohol use can do to the body, we also know that red wine specifically adds value.
It adds value because of a special ingredient we’ll get into in a moment. In the article ahead, we’ll also be discussing the benefits of red wine in greater detail along with the side effects and precautions.
We’ll conclude with some alternatives you might consider as well if red wine just isn’t your thing.
So without further ado, let’s begin with that special ingredient … a little something that is known as resveratrol.
What Is Resveratrol?
Resveratrol is part of a compound class called polyphenols. These polyphenols have qualities like antioxidants. They are thought to protect the body from certain forms of cancer as well as heart disease.
Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes, and since red wine is made of grapes, it’s a pretty rich source. But it’s not the only source. You also can find it in peanuts, berries, and non-alcoholic resveratrol supplements (or just by eating the grapes in the raw).
Considering the vast majority of Americans (and people across the globe, for that matter) drink alcohol in moderation at the very least, the thinking goes that red wine is a “healthier” way of getting your alcohol fix.
And that’s true. But alcohol is a drug, and you can’t afford to forget that fact when pouring a glass.
Provided you don’t have an addictive personality and you’re not given to binge-drinking, red wine is the ideal adult beverage of choice, especially if you’re hoping to capitalize on the beneficial qualities of resveratrol.
In the next section, we’ll discuss exactly what those benefits are. Let’s continue!
The Benefits of Red Wine
Okay, let’s save some of the cautionary statements for the side effects section to come. For now, we’ll be examining in further detail the good that red wine can do, thanks largely to its antioxidant qualities.
In biblical references to the “good” wine can do, the directive was to take wine “for the stomach.” In other words, if your digestion was off, there was usually something else amiss in the body as well.
Even then, the medical and educated classes knew the stomach was the key to overall wellness.
While too much wine can be impairing, it does have better digestive effects on the stomach than some of the other alcoholic beverages out there, especially carbonated beverages like beer.
Its ability to keep the stomach in check and inject much-needed resveratrol into your diet makes it capable of the following:
1. It May Improve Heart Health
The resveratrol found in red wine can be beneficial to blood flow and pressure. It can keep the organ’s normal functionality in check, and it can help lower triglycerides.
But going beyond that, the act of sitting down for dinner or right before bed with a glass of red wine can create calming effects that go beyond biology.
In other words, the “event” of drinking a glass of wine can ease stressors and help you download the negative thoughts and experiences out of your brain so they don’t continue to follow you around.
2. It Could Be Helpful in Preventing Colon Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, there are about 97,000 new cases of colon cancer that are reported each year. That number is likely to go up with the modern way of life that includes high-fat, high-cholesterol diets and sedentary working environments.
The antioxidant qualities of red wine give you a way of fighting back. By protecting the body’s colon cells from free radical damage, you can maintain a healthier “environment” that gives cancer less of a chance to develop.
But wine-drinking alone isn’t enough. You’ll also want to get up and move around. Stay active. Eat right. It’s a multi-pronged approach, for sure, but one you can’t afford to neglect.
3. The Same May Be True for Breast Cancer
Breast cancer is one of the leading cancer-related causes of death for women, and it can affect men as well, though in much smaller numbers. Medical science is learning more about the causes of breast cancer and what to do to treat it every day.
But in the meantime, a glass of red wine every night or two isn’t going to hurt anyone. And thanks to the resveratrol content, you’re actually giving your body a weapon to play defense.
4. It Could Play a Role in Preventing Vision Loss
The red wine benefits for the heart also may extend to your vision. That’s because one of the leading causes of blindness in the world is a vascular disease involving the retina. By “vascular,” we mean the quality of your veins and blood vessels.
In much the same way that red wine can fortify vessels and veins in the circulatory system, it can strengthen the vast vascular terrain found in the eye. The better your veins and vessels hold up, the longer you can hold onto the quality of your vision.
5. It May Boost Omega-3 Fatty Acid Levels
Omega-3 fatty acids are so important to lowering your blood pressure — another essential to-do item if you want to stay out of the heart disease risk pool. Unfortunately, millions of Americans are firmly implanted in this group. But drinking more red wine (responsibly) can help to fix this.
It helps by supplying more omega-3 fatty acids to your plasma and red blood cells. Naturally, healthy red blood cells will ensure a more regular path to and from the body and throughout the rest of the body.
6. It Can Help Type-2 Diabetes Patients
Type-2 diabetes patients with a cardio-metabolic risk may find it harder to maintain the healthy levels of activity they need to stave off the damaging effects of the disease.
With that in mind, red wine’s support for the heart can extend to diabetic patients because it promotes circulation to every part of the body and keeps the body functioning as it should.
Obviously, the ability to manage symptoms of type-2 diabetes through a healthy diet is important as well. But a glass of wine can give one that extra boost they need to maintain the other parts of their treatment.
7. Red Wine Helps Fortify Blood Vessels
Blood pressure dips and surges can be caused by a variety of factors, but no matter the cause, a weak system of blood vessels through which to operate isn’t going to help you.
Resveratrol, in addition to the other heart benefits mentioned above, has the ability to fortify this network that runs throughout your body.
One word of warning when it comes to HBP: you may not be experiencing any symptoms. That’s why it is often referred to as a “silent killer.” So don’t think a simple glass of wine is going to do the trick.
As the American Heart Association notes, you could be taking a gamble with your life if you’re waiting for signs to show.
8. It May Help One Avoid Permanent Brain Damage in the Event of a Stroke
Strokes attack the brain. They are caused by blockages in the blood vessels or when a vessel actually bursts. The aforementioned strengthening of your vascular system is the core benefit that red wine can offer.
The healthier everything is, the less likely either of these two underlying causes is to happen.
9. It Could Improve Lung Functionality
A 2014 report from researchers at Brock University and McMaster University in Ontario found that red wine benefits the lungs by actually stopping the growth of cancer in those particular organs.
The researchers measured the effect both red and white wines had on non-small-cell carcinoma lung cancer cells, in particular.
They found the reds “effectively stopped the spread of cancer cells at 2 (percent) concentration, while similar results didn’t happen for white wine until 5 (percent) concentration,” notes The Drinks Business.
10. And It May Help Prevent Lung Cancer
According to the American Cancer Society, lung cancers affect almost 500,000 people each year with around 234,000 new cases and over 150,000 deaths. It affects men and women just about equally.
Continuing the narrative from that 2014 report referenced above, red wine also may benefit the lungs by preventing cancer development in the lungs altogether.
But again, more is not better. Obey the laws of moderation. Stick with a single glass. Don’t make it a nightly thing.
11. It Also Works to Prevent Prostate Cancer
Prostate cancer is highly curable if detected early. That said, why wait until it actually develops to do something about it?
Resveratrol is once again the preventative agent at work in the prevention of this type of cancer. Proponents always mention it’s effective in targeting “certain types of cancer.” Thankfully, the prostate is near the top of that list.
12. It May Stave Off Dementia
Circulation is vital to proper brain function. While genetics and other factors play a role in one’s development of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, blood flow makes an impact to how well neurons fire and, subsequently, how firm one’s grasp on reality remains throughout his or her life.
Red wine’s ability to strengthen and support blood vessels create a strong environment for the continued healthy operation of the brain. As a result, it can assist in keeping these heartbreaking conditions at bay.
13. Red Wine May Be Linked to Lowering Risk for Depression and Anxiety
Red wine’s sedative effects are not all good if taken to their addictive extremes. Because it is a depressant, it can lower the body’s reactions and response times to some of the stressors that come at it throughout the day. This creates a bit of a double-edged sword because it may lead to impairment.
However, if you know how to control intake and use moderately, it creates a calming effect that allows you to calibrate and re-energize at the end of a difficult day or a stressful event. That’s why most red wine drinkers will rave that it “takes the edge off.”
14. It Could Help Prevent Liver Disease
Medical News Today notes that moderate consumption of red wine can help you live longer and that it may specifically be useful when it comes to the prevention of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease or NAFLD for those of you who love acronyms.
Researchers recommend a maximum of one glass per day for this particular benefit.
But a word of warning: that doesn’t mean you should save up your 7 glasses for a single day as binge-drinking can reverse many of the red wine benefits.
15. It Has Been Linked to the Prevention of Cavities
Remember that we said resveratrol is a polyphenol. Polyphenols actually reduce the types of bacteria that lead to plaque buildup on the teeth and gums. As a result, drinking red wine can prevent cavities. But you do have to keep something in mind.
Red wine may be somewhat anti-bacterial. But when you drink it without the proper water hydration to go along with it, it can dry out your mouth and cause these bacteria to propagate. So sure, it kills some of them, but those left over can still cause a lot of damage.
The lesson: maintain proper dental hygiene and drink more water than wine, and you should be able to make your dentist proud.
16. It Guards Against Sunburns and Acne
Don’t try it at home, prom-goers, but yes, red wine has been linked to certain skin benefits, namely the prevention of acne and the ability to take some of the stings out should you be working on your tan just a tad too long.
It works because of the resveratrol as well as other antioxidants such as flavonoids and tannin.
The Possible Side Effects
The following is a longer list of side effects that we’re typically used to finding here at Idea Hacks, but it’s important to note they’re out there. That’s because alcohol use in excess can have deadly effects.
Here is some of the possible fallout that could occur if you choose to start drinking red wine on a frequent basis.
Becoming addicted: The first obstacle to red wine benefits is developing an addiction to it. Let’s face it. Wine tastes great, and it can take off the edge. But too much of it will poison your system, and if you get locked in that cycle of abuse, health and wellness can go downhill in a hurry.
Developing mental health issues: Too much wine can damage or impair brain cells and decision-making, both short-term and long-term. Prolonged use may result in full-scale disorders or chronic mental health issues.
Growing depressed: It’s been called liquid courage, but alcohol of any kind is actually a depressant. If you have too much red wine and/or have it too often, it can exacerbate the severity of existing depression or lead to the onset of it.
Experiencing arrhythmias: A report in 2017 from NPR found there is a link between alcohol over-consumption and the development of cardiac arrhythmias, which can sometimes prove fatal. This especially is true with binge drinking.
Being diagnosed with cardiomyopathy: This can affect the proper functioning of the heart and lead to arrhythmias, dizziness, fainting, and even more severe issues.
Having a stroke: According to the UK-based Stroke Association, alcohol may increase the likelihood of a stroke by causing contributing factors like high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and liver damage.
Developing hypertension: High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a hallmark of heart disease. You may not necessarily develop it if you have HBP, but you’re in a higher risk pool for certain. Anything you can do to regulate HBP will put you in a better position. Binge drinking red wine or any other alcohol is not one of those things.
Getting alcoholic hepatitis: An extremely rare condition, but one that produces about 200,000 new cases each year. It will usually occur in heavy drinkers who’ve been at it for a period of many years. It’s characterized by nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, fatigue, and abdominal tenderness, to name a few.
Suffering a fatty liver: Any liver damage that you do — and you can do plenty through excessive drinking — will result in your body’s inability to properly detox. If your liver becomes too damaged, you’ll need a transplant. And transplants are pretty hard to come by the older you get. Throw in the fact that you can’t live without a liver, and it’s possible that overuse of red wine could prove fatal.
Being diagnosed with pancreatitis: This condition is an inflammation of the pancreas. It can be anywhere from manageable to life-threatening, and developing it might make you more susceptible to pancreatic cancer.
Becoming susceptible to other cancers: The more damage you do to your body and its cells, the more likely cancer will take hold. Since overuse of alcohol is one of the very worst things you can do for your long-term health, cancer susceptibility is one of the likelier risks.
Developing cirrhosis: Cirrhosis can last for years or the rest of your life. Heavy drinking is a big indicator. It’s characterized by confusion, abdominal swelling, jaundice, and gastrointestinal bleeding.
Now that you know what could go wrong with red wine, it’s important to look at how it stacks up against a couple of alternatives on the market.
White wine and non-alcoholic wine are the only two closely-related alternatives that we know about. We’re going to take a little time to examine each one in this section. Let’s continue.
White Wine vs. Red Wine
If you have to pick only one wine to drink, make it red. White wines have a nice, crisp (and sometimes fruity) flavor, but they’re like red wine minus the higher quantity of resveratrol, which, again, is the component that powers much of the aforementioned red wine benefits.
But What About Non-Alcoholic Red Wines?
Non-alcoholic red wines are now a thing, and while they won’t give you the same effect of the real deal, they do have comparable amounts of resveratrol in them (varies by brand).
We’ve found the tastes don’t exactly line up, so if you’re a wine purist, you may choose to avoid. That said, it can make a healthier alternative, especially if you’re the type of person who loves to come home on a weeknight and have a glass of wine with dinner.
Our friends at Wine Turtle nicely summarize what non-alcoholic wines are about, and offer a few recommendations at this link.
An important nugget of wisdom from the piece: “…even though you will find many bottles of wine that are labeled as ‘non-alcoholic wine,’ quite a number of them will still have a small percentage of alcohol in them.
This is because the starting point of making non-alcoholic wine is always an alcoholic wine. Turning this alcoholic wine into its non-alcoholic cousin involves adding another step the production process (ie. the removal of alcohol), and it can sometimes be difficult to remove all.
Want to Get the Most from Red Wine Benefits?
To get the most from red wine benefits, you should either go the non-alcoholic route or enjoy the beverage in moderation, making sure to drink responsibly and avoid the urge to binge.
Abuse of red wine is the abuse of alcohol, and it can certainly lead to problems in the short- and long-term. Exercise caution. Other than that, bottoms-up!