Are There Really Any Benefits of Red Wine?

Having spent three weeks picking grapes and preparing Sant Elia’s red and white wine, I began to think about the very publicised benefits of drinking red wine.

We’ve all read about the wonder of the antioxidant polyphenol resveratrol found in red wine, and how it helps to:

  • Lower blood pressure,
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes,
  • Protects against age related mental decline,
  • Fights weight gain,
  • Protects against certain cancers;
  • and even helps us live longer!

But does it?

Extensive research by John Hopkins University of Medicine found no link between resveratrol levels and the rates of heart disease, cancer and death.

“We were initially surprised by the lack of any apparent protection against heart disease or cancer, and no association with life span,” says Dr Richard Semba.

“Since limited animal and cell studies suggested that resveratrol might have beneficial effects, I think people were quick to extrapolate to humans. In retrospect, this was really oversimplified. But there are ongoing trials, so we must keep an open mind about possible benefits.”

So how much resveratrol should we be having daily if any?

No one really knows…

If we are hoping to get our daily dose from red wine…

“You would need to drink one hundred to a thousand glasses of red wine daily to equal the doses that improve health in mice”, says Dr David Sinclair, Professor of Genetics at Harvard University.

From supplements.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Centre report that a reasonable dose is around 500mg a day, but the safety of resveratrol supplements has yet to be evaluated in clinical trials!!!

It’s all rather confusing and can be somewhat controversial, so before coming to any conclusion with regard the benefits of red wine, let’s look further at some research into alcohol intake in general.

Calories, in a single serving of red wine (175 ml.) with an ABV of 13% (Alcohol by volume) there’s approx.160 calories

A study published in Alcohol and Alcoholism found that there’s evidence to suggest that, drinking wine could increase a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

Women drinking more than 10 units a week over 6 months will find it more difficult to conceive than those drinking 5 or fewer units a week.

Alcohol may be a trigger for acne rosacea, and red wine as well as spirits have been implicated .

Heavy drinkers, usually involving more than 30 units a week, have been linked with a range of cancers including mouth, liver, colon and stomach tumours.

An alcoholic binge by the mother during the critical times in the pregnancy can damage the foetus.

Although alcohol is often used as a way of coping with anxiety, it can also be a depressant after two to three units.

As we’ve seen alcohol is not only high in calories, but can also boost appetite, which can lead to weight gain.

Having spent the time reading the research my conclusion is:

  1. Follow the health guidelines, no more than 3-4 units of alcohol for MEN ( one and a half pints of beer, 4% ABV)
  2. For women, no more than 2-3 units (175 ml glass of wine 13% ABV) but not on a regular basis, meaning not everyday
  3. Don’t start drinking red wine because you think resveratrol will ‘cure all ills’ and lead to longevity, there’s no conclusive evidence of this.
  4. Do as the Italians do, drink only when you eat, and then only one or two small glasses of preferably ‘red’. Add a diet rich in fresh fruit, vegetables and extra virgin olive oil… some sunshine helps as an added bonus!
  5. Get extra resveratrol from your diet by eating red grapes, berries, i.e. blueberries, cranberries and mulberries. Even a piece of dark chocolate or cocoa powder will give you more resveratrol than a glass of red wine.

I’m still going to enjoy my glass of red, after-all the research continues, and you never know resveratrol may well be the miracle antioxidant after all.

Finally, the words of my grandmother often ‘rings in my ears; “everything in moderation”


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