The health benefits of red wine - drinking red wine, in moderation, can not only be pleasurable but good for your health as well. The practice of drinking wine with meals has been with us since ancient times. The Greeks and Romans were used to drinking wine on a regular basis, and the grape vines and the wines produced, were revered, suggesting that even then men had an inkling of the health benefits of drinking wine.
It is now generally accepted by health experts and even governments that drinking one to two glasses of red wine a day is beneficial to heath.
The main reason for this is the high level of antioxidants contained in red wine, which help to prevent the oxidation process in which reactive particles known as free radicals cause damage to healthy cells.
The health benefits of red wine have been noted particularly in helping to cut the incidence of heart disease, cancer, and inflammation in the body, as for example, in chronic lung disease.
A study comparing French and German red wines concluded that French red wines offered a greater health benefit due to their higher level of antioxidants. This may account for the "French paradox" where studies have shown that in areas of France where the diet is high in fat, those that drink red wine with meals have a lower incidence of heart attack than those on a similar diet in other parts of the world. It appears that the adverse effect of high dietary fat is more than offset by the health benefit of red wine consumption. The key ingredients associated with the health benefits of red wine are antioxidants such as resveratrol and other polyphenols, flavonoids such as catechin, and saponins.
Studies have indicated that, as well as defending against free radicals, polyphenols like resveratrol, can increase the activity of a family of enzymes called sirtuins, and this may have a beneficial effect by slowing the process of ageing.
Polyphenols are found also in olive oil, which, along with red wine, is one of the mainstays of the Mediterranean diet, known to be linked with health and longevity.
Resveratrol is also known as a phytoestrogen, a plant derived substance with properties similar to those of estrogen. Due to this similarity, phytoestrogens are able to bind to estrogen receptors in the body, acting like naturally produced estrogen. This means that consumption of red wine may benefit certain conditions associated with a decrease in natural estrogen like menopause, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.
One of the antioxidants associated with the health benefits of red wine is catechin, which occurs in several varieties and which is also found in green tea.
Catechins are thought to reduce the risk from four of the major health problems: stroke, heart failure, cancer, and diabetes. They have been associated in studies with reduction of atherosclerotic plaques or "furring up" of arteries. This effect is probably related to the raising of HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol) levels, and the lowering of LDL ("bad" cholesterol). They have been shown to help protect the skin from ultraviolet radiation and cancer, and also in reducing potentially damaging histamine-related local immune responses.
A recent study has suggested that drinking red wine may help protect against colds and herpes infection. A year long study of 4,000 volunteers concluded that people who drank two or more glasses of red wine a day had 44% fewer colds than those who drank no red wine. Other studies have indicated that there may be red wine health benefits related to preventing Alzheimers disease and dental caries.
The accumulated evidence would almost suggest that red wine could be marketed as a health drink to be consumed in moderation. Some varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, and Pinot Noir, are thought to be particularly high in flavonoids and therefore most beneficial. White wines have the skins of the grapes removed at an early stage in their production, and therefore have a much lesser content of beneficial substances.
There seems little doubt that there are significant health benefits from drinking red wine in moderation, and one should not therefore, feel guilty about enjoying a glass or two with a good meal.
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