A report from Statista showed that the United States spent $2.05 billion in 2013 on beer, wine, and liquor advertising. Despite the United States’ massive 400% increase in the advertising budget, alcohol consumption rates have stayed relatively the same for the past 40 years.
If you have or have not heard the accusations of whether drinking wine is a healthy or a hazardous choice, then this post is for you. When it comes to opinions, they don’t really matter. It’s the facts that count.
Clearly the alcohol industry is very profitable. Today, I want to cover the potential health benefits and harms of wine and what goes on inside your body when you consume it.
There is a lot of recent talk revolving around whether or not drinking a glass of wine with your evening meal is healthy for you. Health care providers recommend one to two drinks of alcohol a day for men, and one alcoholic drink a day for women.
Some say one to two glasses with dinner is not only safe but comes with a variety of added health benefits. Others are calling these so-called health benefits of wine a tactic to sell more.
So where does that leave us now? I, myself am a wine lover. I wanted to really see what’s going on when I drink my wine. So, it’s time for me to do some research and get the facts to you.
What Is Wine?
As grapes begin to spoil, wine is made. Grapes have been around for over 60 million years with scientific evidence from fossilized vines. But I don’t think anyone was making wine that long ago.
The earliest written account that we have is from the Old Testament of the Bible. In the Old Testament, Noah had planted a vineyard and made wine.
Wine was actually “discovered” dating back to around 4,000 BC to 6,000 BC. In today’s geographical locations of Georgia, Iran, Turkey and Armenia, it is believed that the first cultivated efforts of grapes were near the Caspian Sea during this time.
Wine is made during the fermentation process of herbs, grapes, yeast, and other ingredients. This is the most common form of wine. Turning sugar into alcohol is any wine lovers favorite step 🙂
Different wines are made with different ingredients. Red wines are usually fermented at warmer temperatures than your white wines. Also, red wines are typically fermented until all the sugar is consumed. This is how you make your dry wines.
Once the fermentation process is completed in those big vats you tend to see, a nice bottle of wine is born. I can actually remember making wine with my great grandfather from Italy when I was younger!
What’s in Wine?
Like most products, manufacturers of wine are not required to place every single ingredient on its label. This is regulated by certain laws. This means that you don’t necessarily know everything in your Cabernet Sauvignon.
Sulfur is added to wines which protect them from going bad if left open over night. Ever took a sip of your wine from the night before? I know you have. Well, that’s the taste of puckered, oxidized wine. Sulfur is basically your wine’s preservative.
Acidifiers are also found in wines. These additives help make your favorite wines more or less acidic. This helps increase or decrease the “lemonade-esque” refreshing quality of your wines.
Now I am not here to scare you, but when I do my research, I like to share with you all of my findings. I did find some concerning facts in wine making and bottling, but I don’t think it is too much to worry about.
It can be concerning when it comes to what is added to your wine (that you may be drinking right now while reading this). I’m referring to the ingredient labeling laws as I mentioned before. These laws regulate what manufacturers of wines can call organic for the certain types of sugars, acids, water, or other ingredients that are added.
In Europe and the United States the laws state that a winery can add any type of ingredient found in nature. These include dangerous amounts of sulfur, artificial yeasts, and gelatin, and still be able to call the bottle of wine “organic”. There are limits, but these can be added.
There are also some pesticides that are sprayed on these organic grapes before they make it to the vats. Based on research, these pesticide levels are not too concerning, but again I wanted to share with you.
Alcohol Is Not Healthy
More than one study out there has shown us that alcohol in excess and itself is not healthy. Reaching for an alternative beverage such as water is most likely to be the better choice.
Still, for those of us that have a healthy relationship with moderate alcohol consumption, I thought it would be helpful if I shared what I’ve researched on alcohol and your health.
Of the many reasons that drinking wine, beer, and liquor may be bad for you, these are some of the heavy long term health risks associated with consuming alcohol in large quantities:
- Liver disease
- High blood pressure
- High blood fats (triglycerides)
- Heart failure
- Fetal alcohol syndrome (if you’re pregnant)
- Certain cancers
- Injury, violence, and death
So we’ve established the reasons that drinking alcohol may come with potential health risks, but that isn’t to say that the other ingredients in alcoholic beverages (such as wine) aren’t healthy for you. Let’s take a closer look at the added benefits that are included in consuming a glass or two of wine – alcohol aside.
Flavonoids and Resveratrol In Red Wine
Harvard Medical School researchers and the National Institutes of Health have both identified that resveratrol significantly delays the effects of age related diseases including type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
After the longevity studies on resveratrol were released, Americans started buying resveratrol supplements and spent upwards of $30 million per year in 2012. Who needs expensive supplements when you can just enjoy a relaxing glass of wine?
The other well-known plant chemicals found in red wine are flavonoids. Flavonoids are technically a part of the phytonutrients group. They are found in nearly all fruits and vegetables and are responsible for the vivid yellow, green, orange, and red colors you see in the produce section of you supermarket isles.
The most abundant flavonoid found in red wine is called procyanidin. Red wine contains about 22 mg of procyanidin. In a study done on rats, procyanidin extract from grape seeds resulted in a 41% decrease in triglyceride levels after 1 week.
There are over 9,000 types of flavonoids found in fruits and vegetables. The benefits include a rather extensive list. Here are some of the top tier health benefits associated with flavonoids:
- anticancer activity
- freeradical scavenging capacity
- antihypertensive effects
- coronary heart disease prevention
- anti-human immunodeficiency virus functions
Resveratrol and flavonoids found in red wine pack a punch of significant health benefits. Flavonoids in other fruits and vegetables have significant reductions in total cholesterol from 20%-30% and LDL 19%-27% in this study.
Preventing small amounts of weight gain is always on my list of things to avoid. Gaining 10 lbs (4.5 kg) or more between the ages of 40 and 60 increases the risk of developing diabetes by 40-70%, and a meta-analysis of 221 studies found a 24-59% increased risk of several cancers.
A study on the connection between weight loss and drinking red wine was released in 2015 by Washington State University.
The study resulted in losing weight from consumption of resveratol. The researchers made the connection that the plant compund, resveratol, which is most commonly found in grape skins, is helpful in turning white fat into the easily burned off brown fat.
But not so fast, wine contains small amounts of resveratol so it is important to eat right and exercise if you are trying to lose weight.
This study took a look at about 20,000 middle aged and older women and found that those women who moderately drank alcohol (including wine) put on less weight and were less likely to become obese compared to non drinkers.
Trim woman who did not drink alcohol had about a 43% chance of becoming overweight or obese over 13 years. This risk fell to 33% if she drank 15 to 30 grams of alcohol per day.
Protects Against Heart Disease
Studies have shown that adults who drink light to moderate amounts of alcohol (wine) may be less likely to develop heart disease. This is compared to those who drink heavily, and those who don’t drink all together.
Ok, for all of you non drinkers, don’t think that by starting to drink alcohol now that you are going to lower your chances of developing heart disease. There are better alternatives to reduce those risks.
Again, we’re back to the resveratrol, which is proven to come with a whole list of heart health benefits, similarly to what I’ve already went over.
The substances like antioxidants found in red wine may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the “good” cholesterol that protects against artery damage.
Thus, the reduction in total mortality that is associated with moderate alcohol consumption, generally a 30% reduction in risk, is thought to be a direct result of a reduction in the risk of developing atherosclerotic disease.
In Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 38,077 male health professionals who were free of cardiovascular disease were observed for 12 years. As a result of drinking 1 to 2 drinks per day, 3 to 4 days per week, scientists saw a decreased risk of having myocardial infarction (heart attack) by as much as 35%.
Studies have shown that the risk of coronary heart disease was decreased by approximately 20% when 0 to 2 alcoholic drinks were consumed per day. Having 1 to 2 drinks per day of wine has also been shown to increase your HDL cholesterol by about 12%.
There are some pretty detailed studies around drinking. I would have mind being apart of some of these studies.
According to the American Diabetes Association, In 2012, 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population, had diabetes. Diabetes is continuously increasing year over year because we are not taking care of our health.
In one study, 224 volunteers with type 2 diabetes were randomly assigned 150 mL of either mineral water, white wine, or red wine with dinner. Of these patients, 87% completed the study after 2 years.
The results showed significant glycemic control benefits from both groups who were drinking wine daily. The volunteers who drank red wine saw a significant increase in their high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) levels by 0.05 mmol/L. They also decreases their total cholesterol level by 27% by drinking wine daily.
By drinking red wine, these patients were able to reduce their risks of heart disease, and other heart problems (metabolic syndrome) by 34%.
After completing this study, Dr. Iris Shai, from the Center for Health and Nutrition stated:
We found that a glass of red wine with dinner can improve the cardiovascular health of people with Type 2 diabetes.
Drinking alcohol can lead to serious low blood sugar reactions, especially if you take insulin or other diabetic medications. Be sure to speak with your doctor if you have diabetes.
Is Red Wine Better Than White Wine?
The main ingredients in white wines are white grapes. These grapes have no skins or seeds. As we discussed above, the heart healthy and age defying qualities of resveratrol comes from the skin of the red grape. One point for red wine!
In a 5 ounce glass of red and white wine, caloric intake is about equal. Carbs in both red wine and white wine are 3.8g. Comparing sugar content, red wine wins with only .9g compared to 1.4g in whites. Another point for red wine!
Red wines tend to have higher levels of potassium (5%), iron (4%), bone friendly phosphorus (3.4%) and even magnesium (5%). Looks like red wine is taking the lead!
Reds contain so many more minerals and less sugar. These numbers don’t reflect the antioxidants found in red wines either. These levels are not shared by the USDA.
So lets recap. The health benefits of red wine (in moderation), help fight off higher cholesterol levels and reducing your risk of metabolic syndrome. Red wine is an awesome source of powerful antioxidants, which as we discussed before, raises levels of artery protecting “good” cholesterol, among lots of other benefits.
Like all things in life, moderation is the key. Preventing a massive stroke won’t mean anything if you give yourself liver damage from over consuming alcohol and wine. Take full advantage of the many health benefits that red wines have to offer, but be sure to take it one glass (per night) at a time.
Again, if you have other health conditions or addiction issues, be sure to ask your doctor if drinking alcohol in moderation is a healthy choice for you.
What are some of your favorite red wines? What are your favorite dishes to pair them with? Please, do share and comment with your thoughts below!