Drinking too much of any alcohol can be catastrophic to you and your health. In moderate amounts, however, there’s evidence that wine - specifically red wine - can be good for you.
The science surrounding wine is fairly complicated. Most varieties of alcohol in moderation are good for you; according to the Mayo Clinic, it can increase your good cholesterol, steady your blood pressure, protect your arteries and curb your risk of blood clots. Drinking too much can make you obese, increase your risk of liver disease, raise the likelihood of certain cancers, and make you more likely to die by alcohol overdose or in a car accident. Drink too much, and any benefits of wine might be wiped out.
The jury's still out on whether the benefits of moderate consumption of wine outweigh those of other liquors. Red wine, however, has something that not all liquors have: a vaunted nutrient called resveratrol. It comes from the skin of the grapes used to make red wine, and it's been tentatively linked to a whole range of potential benefits: more good cholesterol, less bad cholesterol, overall heart health, lower risk of cancer, slower macular degeneration, anti-aging and anti-Alzheimer's effects, and more.
What's not clear is if those benefits are attributable to wine or the "wine lifestyle" of wealth, a good diet, and interesting dinner table conversation. Most are derived from the results of single studies - some of which were small or have yet to have their findings duplicated. Resveratrol has only been subject to limited tests in mice; some of its benefits have been described via dietary studies rather than direct testing and observation in the lab.
What research has been done, however, is promising. A 2013 study published in Science found that resveratrol acts on a protein involved in inflammation, cell metabolism and aging. Other research has described the mechanisms by which resveratrol guards against obesity and fights cancer.
There's another upside to red wine: tannins. They're much more common in red wine than resveratrol -- accounting for about half of red wine's bioactive compounds. Scientists found tannins on the cells that line the human heart slowed the production of a protein that hardens human arteries. What that means for resveratrol is unclear. What appears to be true, however, is that multiple compounds in red wine are linked to better heart health.
White wines probably aren't as healthy for you as red ones. They have less resveratrol and fewer flavonoids - important compounds that contribute to the antioxidant qualities of red wines. White wines are also more acidic; if you drink too much, you may do damage to your teeth.
It's not all bad with white wines, however. They have less resveratrol but more of a chemical called tyrosol; one study in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found that tyrosol may have similar heart-healthy qualities. If you are picking a white, go for one with more tyrosol - maybe a Verdicchio.
Possible short-term side effects
- allergic reaction
- impaired decisions
Possible long-term side effects
- alcohol dependence
- death and disease
- liver cirrhosis
- weight gain
- in moderation:
- reduced risk of heart disease
- reduced cholesterol
- reduced inflammation
- may combat macular degeneration
- may help to slow aging
- may act against alzheimer's