For many years, medical research has been conducted on the health benefits of wine, but recent studies on the libation have shed some interesting findings. The general consensus is, yes, wine is good for your health given certain parameters. However, not all wines are created equal when it pertains to their value in elevating health due to the varied natural elements found in the different varieties of wine.
Flavonoids, which are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, are metabolites that provide health benefits through antioxidant effects. A specific flavonoid, resveratrol, is a key component of red wine that has been shown to improve cardiovascular health. Procyanidins is a class of flavonoids that contain condensed tannins—a natural element that makes wine taste dry. Procyanidins protect against heart disease. The skin of grapes used to make red wine contain large amounts of resveratrol and procyanidins, more so than white wine because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than white wine.
The University of California, Davis, tested a variety of wines to determine which types have the highest concentrations of flavonoids. Cabernet Sauvignon had the highest flavonoid concentration, followed by Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir. Merlots and red zinfandels did not score as highly as the other red wines. White wine was found to have significantly smaller amounts of flavonoids than red wine varieties. The rule of thumb is the drier the red wine, the higher the flavonoid concentration. Sweeter wines, like white and pink wines, have fewer flavonoids.
Researchers have long known that light to moderate alcohol use, particularly in middle-aged men and women, reduces the risk of atherosclerosis that may lead to coronary heart disease. Atherosclerosis (ath-er-o-skler-O-sis) is a disease in which plaque builds up inside the arteries. The disease can affect any artery in the body, including arteries in the heart, brain, arms, legs, pelvis, and kidneys. This accumulation of plaque in the arteries may lead to heart attack, stroke, or death. Several risk factors may cause atherosclerosis, including a high-fat diet, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, age, and a family history of heart disease.
Moderate consumption, four ounces a day for women and four to eight ounces a day for men, of red wine has been shown in research studies to have the following health benefits:
- Lower risk of heart disease and stroke: A daily dose of red wine provides enough procyanidins and resveratrol to protect against heart disease by reducing low-density lipoproteins (LDL) cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), removing chemicals responsible for causing blood clots, and decreasing blood clot-related stroke rates by 50 percent.
- Cancer treatment: Another active antioxidant in red wine known as quercetin fights cancer cells and inhibits tumor growth, particularly in colon cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
- Protection against neurological diseases: Resveratrol protects against cell damage that causes age-related mental decline as found in Alzheimer’s disease. The flavonoid also aids in the formation of nerve cells that is helpful in the treatment of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.
- Weight loss: Ellargic acids inside a vineyard’s grapes have the power to delay the growth of fat cells and slow the development of new ones.
- Mimics workout time: Resveratrol is responsible for heart-healthy benefits, such as improved physical performance and muscle strength, and cardiovascular enhancements.
- Promotes long life: Red wine drinkers have a 34 percent lower mortality rate than beer or vodka drinkers, according to a 29-year-long study. Any diet rich in polyphenols (found in red wine) protects against the development of chronic diseases.
Dr. Cockerell is co-owner—with his wife, Brenda—of Coquerel Family Wine Estates in Calistoga, California in the Napa Valley that produces world-class wines. The name “Coquerel” is an archaic French derivation of the family name Cockerell that was specifically chosen, as the goal of the vineyard is to produce French-style wines in the Napa Valley. The vineyard is mostly dry-farmed and produces a number of grape varietals, including Sauvignon Blanc and Petite Sirah among others under the supervision of world-renowned wine specialist, Christine Barbe. Coquerel produces award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Verdelho, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon wines that capture the essence of the vintage, variety, and site. For more information, please visit www.coquerelwines.com.
Dr. Cockerell does not advocate excessive drinking nor does he encourage people to take up drinking just for health benefits. If you drink alcohol, please do so responsibly.
American Heart Association (2005). Cardiology Patients Page: Red Wine and Your Heart. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/111/2/e10.full.
Brien S.E., Ronksley P.E., Turner B.J., et al. (2011). Effect of Alcohol Consumption on Biological Markers Associated with Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Interventional Studies. BMJ; 342. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=Brien+SE%2C+Ronksley+PE%2C+Turner+BJ%2C+Mukamal+KJ%2C+Ghali+WA.+Effect+of+alcohol+consumption+on+biological+markers+associated+with+risk+of+coronary+heart+disease%3A+systematic+review+and+meta-analysis+of+interventional+studies.+BMJ.+2011%3B342%3Ad636.
Mayo Clinic (2014). Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart? Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281.
Medical Daily (2015). Red Wine Burns Fat and Lowers Blood Pressure, Plus 5 Other Health Benefits for Winos. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.medicaldaily.com/red-wine-burns-fat-and-lowers-blood-pressure-plus-5-other-health-benefits-winos-321382.
MedicalNewsToday (2015). Wine: Health Benefits and Health Risks. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635.php.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (204). What Is Atherosclerosis? Retrieved August 28, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/atherosclerosis.
Yale-New Haven Hospital (2015). A Glass of Red Wine a Day Keeps the Doctor Away. Retrieved August 28, 2015, from http://www.ynhh.org/about-us/red_wine.aspx.