Next time, let science help you decide whether to uncork a bottle of red wine fresh from a liquor store or not. The thing is, red wine may not just be a typical alcoholic beverage.
Red wine is quite popular among adults all around the world. It is much preferable by 55 percent of the population .
It offers a wide range of health benefits when taken in a proper amount. However, drinking red wine also has its downsides for health.
What is red wine?
Starting with the basics, red wine refers to an alcoholic beverage that is made and produced by fermenting the juice of dark-skinned grapes rather than light-skinned grapes, in contrast to what is commonly used in other types of wine. Also, red wine has a unique material and production process compared with other wines.
During red wine production, the winemaker ensures that the pressed grape juice, called ‘must,’ should macerate and ferment along with dark grape skins. The process gives a red color, flavors and tannins to the wine.
Moreover, it becomes an alcoholic beverage when yeast changes grape sugar into ethanol and carbon dioxide. Red wine is then produced as a result of the process.
Characteristics of red wine
There are different characteristics that make red wine unique from other types of wines, such as the following:
- Color – the most obvious sign of red wine is its color. Red wines have a range in hue from deep, opaque purple to pale ruby. Also, the more the red wine ages, its colors turn from bright and youthful to garnet and even brown.
- Tannin – another unique characteristic of red wine is containing tannins, which are polyphenols that give texture, structure and age-ability to a wine.
Tannins are to blame when you feel a drying sensation as you sip red wine. There are different qualities of tannins, such as some can be observed as ripe, smooth or well-integrated into the wine; meanwhile, others can be perceived as rustic, green or astringent.
- A wide range of flavors – red wines are not limited when it comes to flavors. There are numerous grape varieties that produce certain aromas of fruits, flowers, herbs, spices and earthy characteristics.
Interestingly, the flavors and aromas are not actually added to the red wine, but they come from the wine’s own unique organoleptic properties, deriving from organic compounds usually found in acids and grape skins.
- Acid – the acid content is another unique quality found in red wines, such as tartaric and malic acids. Acid is considered to be an essential component of red wines. It serves as a preservative and provides freshness and structure.
When drinking a glass of red wine, you may perceive acidity as the tart and sour taste, which surprisingly balance against sweet and bitter or tannin components.
Types of red wine
Red wine has different variations depending on the kind of process, grapes used and other ingredients added to it. The most popular types are the following:
- Cabernet Sauvignon – you have probably read Cabernet Sauvignon on the menu of almost all fine dining restaurants you visited because it is that popular. Cabernet Sauvignon refers to a type of red wine made from the most planted grapes, which is perfect for an evening meal. This type of red wine is commonly produced in California or France that has a bit more herbal and spices content than the others.
- Merlot – next, Merlot is considered to be the second-most planted grape and was popularized in early 1990. Drinking merlot is a good starter for people who want to be red wine connoisseurs because it is pretty “easy” to drink, which means it is fruity and won’t make your mouth pucker up with tannins.
- Cabernet Franc – aside from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Cabernet Franc is also a type of red wine that is part of the essential blending triad, taking up most of the Bordeaux blend and Meritage red wines. Cabernet Franc is usually produced in the United States.
- Zinfandel – drinking zinfandels was commonly associated with mothers in 1990. Zinfandel has an interesting taste that varies based on where the grapes used were grown. Generally, Zinfandel has a distinct juicy taste and is high in alcohol content.
- Pinot Noir – in making Pinot Noir, the common grapes used are flighty, fragile and prone to obstinately weedy flavors. This type of red wine is commonly a major component of many Champagnes and other sparkling wines.
Pinot Noir has an ethereal delicacy and can age for decades. It is also been memorably described as “the iron fist in the velvet glove.”
12 health benefits of drinking red wine
Drinking the appropriate amount of red wine may provide a wide range of health benefits.
1. Onboard the antioxidants
Antioxidants are great for the body, and red wine is a great source of them. The dark grapes used in red wine have the highest amount of antioxidants, including resveratrol, epicatechin, catechin and proanthocyanidins. Particularly, resveratrol and proanthocyanidins are the ones that maintain your body in its healthy state.
Antioxidants are needed in the body as these substances protect your cells against free radicals, which contribute to the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer .
2. Lowers bad cholesterol
Drinking red wines is known to be associated with lowered bad cholesterol in the system. Research suggests that the high-fiber Tempranillo red grapes which are used in producing certain varieties of red wines, can reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or bad cholesterol .
3. Improves heart health
Surprisingly, drinking red wine can keep the heart healthy because of its polyphenols content.
Polyphenols are antioxidants found in red wines that help prevent unwanted clotting by making the blood vessels flexible. In fact, consuming foods and beverages that are rich in polyphenols has long been linked to a lowered risk of heart disease.
Moreover, drinking red wine can protect the lining of your blood vessels in the heart while simultaneously boosting HDL or good cholesterol. When you have enough good cholesterol, you help your body flush out low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. Having bad cholesterol in the body can significantly put you at high risk of developing heart disease and stroke.
Hence, drinking red wine may help lower bad cholesterol that may cause artery damage . However, consuming too much red wine may reverse its effects on heart health.
4. Regulates blood sugar
Red wine helps in regulating blood sugar through its resveratrol content, a natural compound found in grape skin. It can also control the blood sugar levels in people suffering from type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, research shows that resveratrol can control cholesterol levels and systolic blood pressure of people taking 250 mg of resveratrol supplements once every day.
The researchers conducted the study within three months, and the participants were found to have lower glucose levels in their blood than those who did not .
Even if red wine contains natural sugars, it is still found to effectively help in regulating blood sugar, as per the American Diabetes Association .
Drinking the right amount of red wine can decrease the body’s blood sugar for up to 24 hours, which is significantly beneficial for people with higher blood sugar levels.
However, red wine is not as good as the actual glucose management medications prescribed by healthcare professionals and shouldn’t be substituted or become an alternative for treatment plans. Red wine may only be added to the diet.
5. Reduces the risk of cancer
A moderate amount of red wine consumption is known to have benefits in reducing the risk of certain types of cancers, including:
- Basal cell cancer
- Colon cancer
- Prostrate cancer
- Ovarian cancer
The health benefit also stems back to the resveratrol content of red wine. Scientists studied the dose of resveratrol on human cancer cells and discovered that the compound could obstruct the key action of the cancer-aiding protein.
Several recent studies emerged stating that drinking red wine can potentially have the ability to lower cancer risk by preventing the development of cancerous cells, specifically the ones with a direct link to breast cancer and esophageal cancer . Cancer researchers also emphasized that resveratrol, a polyphenol compound found in grape skin, can actually kill cancer cells .
Furthermore, resveratrol allows starvation among cancer cells by blocking the growth of a key protein that feeds them. Health experts consider resveratrol as a powerful antioxidant that is simply found in grape skin, commercially sold as red grape juice or red wine.
6. Has positive effects on the digestive system
Red wine has an anti-bacterial nature that treats stomach irritation and some other digestive issues. Given this, wine consumption has been proven to lower the risk of infection from Helicobacter pylori, which refers to a bacterium commonly found in the stomach.
Surprisingly, red wine also diversifies your gut microbiome or boosts your healthy gut bacteria. Having a well-balanced microbiome of good and bad bacteria contributes to preventing disease development.
Meanwhile, an unhealthy microbiome decreases your immune function, resulting in the body becoming more susceptible to getting sick .
7. Keeps memory sharp
Resveratrol in red wines is found to be beneficial in keeping the memory sharp. Research suggests that resveratrol inhibits the development of beta-amyloid protein, which is a key ingredient in the plaque of the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease . A corrupted form of beta-amyloid can destroy nerve cells resulting in the loss of thought and memory of people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Many recent studies show that resveratrol has properties that can reduce damage caused by sleep deprivation, including memory deficits. It can also boost the brain’s ability to learn and cognitive processing functions .
Another interesting fact about red wine is its ability to potentially reduce the risk of dementia, which refers to a group of conditions affecting memory function that usually occurs when you age. Many studies prove that red wine consumption is beneficial in lowering the risk factors of dementia, which often eventually develops into Alzheimer’s disease .
Remember that drinking a glass of red wine in moderation is when you reap its health benefits, as heavier consumption can only put your health at high risk.
8. Helps in weight management
Drinking red wine can also help keep track of your weight. The chemical compound called piceatannol is converted from resveratrol, reducing body fat cells. According to health experts, piceatannol fastens the insulin receptors of fat cells, which block the pathways needed for immature fat cells to develop .
9. Reduces the risk of depression
Surprisingly, drinking red wine every day in moderation helps prevent depression.
In a study conducted among middle-aged to elderly people, the researchers found that drinking moderate to low amounts of alcohol on a daily basis resulted in fewer symptoms and a lower risk of depression in comparison to people who drink a lot .
Hence, people who have a few regular sips in a glass of red wine are less likely to experience depression compared with people who don’t.
10. Helps treat common colds
Red wine contains antioxidants that can treat common colds. The antioxidants are known to protect cells against any harmful effects of free radicals, which have a strong role in experiencing the common cold, cancer and other diseases.
Strengthening your immune system to protect your body against viruses is extremely important, and red wine can also check this promising perk. With red wine’s high antioxidant content, you can boost your immune system as it helps in combating foreign invaders like bacteria or viruses.
11. Promotes eye health
Thanks to resveratrol once again as it is found to be beneficial in eye health. Red wine, with its resveratrol content, has vascular-enhancing properties that may enhance microcirculation in the eye.
The process can aid in preventing eye-related issues, including macular degeneration caused by age, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma – all of these contribute to loss of vision.
12. Enhances dental health
Some studies show that red wine can potentially keep your mouth healthy because of its antioxidant content. New data suggests that red wine can fight off harmful bacteria in the mouth, contributing to tooth decay and gum disease. With red wine being able to prevent bacteria from sticking to teeth and gums, you can stop having cavities or plaque .
5 side effects of drinking red wine
Despite its health benefits, red wine has downsides when taken too much. The following health issues are some of the side effects you may experience and develop eventually.
1. Suffer from liver disease or cirrhosis
Overconsumption of alcohol, including red wine, can lead to serious liver problems like cirrhosis.
A 2015 study conducted by the European Association, it was revealed that if an individual consumes more than the moderate threshold, it can increase the prevalence of alcohol-induced cirrhosis by 11.13 percent .
Consuming alcohol more than a moderate amount which is 1 to 1.5 glasses for women and 1 to 2 glasses for men every day, may significantly affect one’s health, particularly malfunction of the liver.
2. Develop fetal alcohol spectrum disorder
Alcohol consumption in pregnant women is strongly prohibited as it can have long-term effects on the child. Health experts suggest that an unborn baby may suffer from several negative side effects when the mother was exposed to alcohol continuously during pregnancy.
Side effects on an unborn baby may include the following but are not limited to:
- Behavioral problems
- Birth defects
- Unusual facial features
- Has a smaller size compared with other normal children
- Learning problems
Additionally, drinking one glass of red wine from time to time may not negatively impact the mother and her baby. However, physicians still recommend not drinking alcohol all throughout the pregnancy period.
3. Increase the risk of breast cancer
Despite being helpful in decreasing certain types of cancer, overconsumption of red wine may reverse the health advantage.
Having a family history of breast cancer makes you more susceptible to developing it. Hence, health experts advice avoiding alcohol or red wine as it may even increase your cancer risk. When you drink alcohol, your estrogen level may increase, putting your body at risk of tumor progression.
In a 2006 study published in the Annals of Epidemiology, the researchers revealed that one or two drinks on a daily basis might enhance a person’s breast cancer risk between 30 and 50 percent .
4. Increase the risk of esophageal cancer
Aside from an increased risk of breast cancer, consuming alcohol a lot may also increase your risk of having tongue and esophageal cancer.
In a 2017 study published in PLoS One, it was further emphasized that one glass of alcoholic beverage may improve your risk of esophageal cancer. Hence, drinking a single glass of alcohol, like red wine, may impact health significantly .
5. Increase the risk of rosacea
Do you want to make your skin radiant and glowing? You better limit your red wine intake.
Research suggests that there is an increase in the number of blood vessels in the cheeks of red wine drinkers. Those with visible blood vessels are observed in people who are heavy red wine drinkers. Given this, health experts conclude that red wine consumption is associated with rosacea.
Research about drinking red wine
Health experts believe that moderate drinking is actually the key to getting the good benefits of red wine. It is believed that only one glass of red wine every day for women and two glasses for men is recommended.
The recommended dosage was concluded from several studies proving that red wine can be beneficial to the skin with its antiaging properties.
A study conducted in Italy derived a conclusion that wine extracts show remarkable antioxidant and antiaging activity. This was after they assessed their antiaging potential through the β-galactosidase colorimetric assay. It is basically a scientific test used to observe the activity of the experiment.
Wine extracts from red wine were found to be health beneficial, specifically on cells that were exposed to a really stressful environment. Consequently, the researchers believed that red wine has an amazing potential for cosmetic products focused on skin regeneration .
The research on skin and red wine is only an example of numerous studies proving the relationship between red wine and beauty – specifically in antiaging interventions. The mechanism provided by the antioxidant content in red wine fights damaging free radicals,
This contribute to the factors in aging and age-related diseases. Some of the beneficial antioxidants in red wine with skin-enhancing abilities are polyphenols (a higher concentration of antioxidants) and resveratrol.
Red wine, diet and longevity
Do you want to know why the Mediterranean diet won as “the best diet” for three consecutive years?  A diet includes red wine in every meal and a bunch of healthy foods perfect for your body functions, such as:
- Fresh fruits
- Whole grains
- Nuts and seeds
- Olive oil
In a 2020 study published by the BMJ journal Gut, it was revealed that eating the Mediterranean diet for just a year can modify the gut microbiome of elderly people in ways that enhance their brain function and aid in longevity .
However, consuming many glasses of red wine may provide you with negative effects on your overall health. Therefore, you must only drink the recommended amount of red wine to live more years longer.
So, does white wine also that beneficial?
Red wine contains the most antioxidant content, making it a better and healthier choice compared with white wine. To prove this, a group of scientists from the University of Wisconsin at Madison suggests drinking red wine with its great health benefits.
Scientists have been studying resveratrol as a natural compound found in red wines. This is especially for its potential to help in slowing down the natural aging process . It does this by contributing to protecting tissues inside the body.
The Wisconsin researchers believe that you don’t necessarily need to take many glasses of red wine. This is true as with what most researchers had previously thought and suggested.
Red wine in antiaging
Furthermore, the scientists at Harvard Medical School who prioritized studying the effect of resveratrol on mice discovered that mice with resveratrol became more agile and ran much more quickly than the other mice in the scientific experiment. As a result, resveratrol is considered the one responsible for the antiaging benefits of red wine.
In previous research conducted on animals, the experimented mice were administered to drink a lot of red wine. This was equivalent to over 100 bottles a day.
Following the Wisconsin study, the scientists used much lower levels on their experimented mice and still derived positive results. The researchers also added that it is essentially challenging to determine the precise number of glasses of wine, or bottles of wine, that is still beneficial to the body. Therefore, one glass of red wine a day for women and two for men is still recommended.
Resveratrol as an antiaging pill
Since drinking many glasses of red wine can negatively affect health because it is still an alcoholic beverage, scientists are searching for a way to consume the longevity substance from red wine – resveratrol – and transform it into a pill.
David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School is one of the esteemed researchers in the field of study. Sinclair initially estimated that about 100 years from now, people would see antiaging drugs around in a typical pharmaceutical store; however, with the recent studies on red wine, he becomes optimistic that it would be just in the next few years.
Although this is quite a statement, the medical community is still skeptical about it. There are some other supplements in the market that claim to use resveratrol as the main ingredient, but the data proving the effectiveness of resveratrol in supplements is still minimal. The resveratrol supplements need more intense studies to prove the claim that they provide similar benefits as red wine.
The recommended dosage of red wine
Overconsumption of alcohol, like red wine, may provide negative effects on the body and it eventually even poses a threat to life. However, it does not discourage you to not indulge in drinking your favorite red wine every once in a while.
Ideally, as emphasized many times, drinking red wine more than 1 to 1.5 glasses of a day for women and 1 to 2 glasses a day for men. Plus, it is also advisable to skip red wine for about 1 or 2 days in between so that there is a good sufficient gap in drinking.
There are red wine extract supplements available in numerous dosages and dose forms. In clinical trials, the effects of red wine on risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as blood pressure and bad cholesterol, are being evaluated with the use of the following dosages:
- 125 mL twice every day
- 250 mL total daily dose of red wine or red wine-onion extract for 10 weeks
- 150 mL of red wine with dinner meals for six months
If you choose to drink red wine, you must do it in moderation. You should also stick to no more than one to two drinks every day for men and one drink per day for women. With the antioxidants of red wine, you can definitely acquire many health benefits; however, the effects will be reversed if consumed too much.