Is drinking red wine actually good for you? It’s complicated

Red wine might not be as good for you as you may have thought.
Red wine might not be as good for you as you may have thought.

If you’ve had a rough week at the office, chances are you’ve sat down with a glass of wine to unwind from the hell that is your demanding boss.

It’s true that wine can do wonders for your mood, and science suggests it can be great for your heartyour brain and your muscles, too. Some research suggests that red wine even has cancer-fighting properties.

But is the hype surrounding red wine too good to be true? We talked to the experts to find out if your nightly glass of vino is doing you any favours. Here’s what they had to say about the science behind red wine and what the drink actually means for your health.

How does red wine compare to other booze?

Red wine has always been touted for its health benefits due to its concentration of polyphenols, particularly resveratrol, which is found in the skin of grapes. These antioxidants may work to reduce inflammation in your body, a marker that commonly plays a role in the progression of heart disease.

Read more: The new rules of wine

But the thing is, the health benefits of red wine aren’t entirely different from the perks you’d get from drinking any other kind of alcohol in moderation, like spirits or beer, says Eric Rimm, Sc.D. professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health.

While it’s true that polyphenols may be good for your heart, the amount you get in red wine is actually really small compared to eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables per day, says Rimm.

In fact, research published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that resveratrol had no link to rates of heart disease, cancer and death. That’s because most other studies concerning resveratrol’s benefits have been performed on animals in high doses, so scientists are not entirely sure how it impacts humans who consume it in natural amounts, the study authors note.

Read more: The science of drinking wine

“The reason that some of this discussion started was because there were lots of mouse studies done where they isolated some polyphenols from red wine and gave it to mice,” explains Rimm. “In some cases, they did see great benefits. The problem was, for a human to get that benefit, they would have to have eight to 10 bottles of red wine a night.”

It’s more likely that the actual alcohol in wine, not necessarily the polyphenols alone, are giving your health a boost, he says. “If you have a shot of gin, a 150ml glass of red wine or a 350ml can of beer, they all have about the same amount of alcohol.”

Read more: Drinking wine may actually stop your brain cells from dying

People who drink moderate amounts of alcohol in controlled studies, regardless of the kind they sip, tend to have consistently better blood markers, he explains. (The current U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate as up to two drinks per day for men. One drink equates to 350ml of beer, 150ml of wine, or a 45ml shot of 80-proof distilled liquor, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC].)

When you drink moderate amounts of alcohol, your good HDL cholesterol increases, your blood clot risk can go down, and your body’s ability to sense insulin and glucose might improve, explains Rimm. In fact, there are more than 100 studies that find moderate drinking can lower your risk of heart attack.

But there’s one word that’s important to remember here: Moderation. When you drink more than the recommended amount, the health implications can get a little dicey.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock 

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