Is Red Wine Good For You? A Cardiologist Explains The Link Between Red Wine And Heart Disease.
Is red wine good for my heart…or not? From wellness experts to media outlets, many talk about the health benefits of consuming red wine, claiming the heart benefits of it. But, science has shown us that alcohol consumption is detrimental to our health by increasing risks to particular diseases like coronary heart disease and liver disease. So, what's the verdict?
Is Red Wine Good For My Heart? What Is Resveratrol?
Red wine may be cardioprotective because it contains some amount of resveratrol and antioxidants. Resveratrol, a natural phenol, can lower blood pressure and body fat. Also, red wine contains some anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic agents. Anti-thrombotic agents prevent blood clots. However, despite the possible health benefits that red wine may have, the amount of resveratrol, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic agents varies quite a lot between different red wine brands, and are not present in sufficient quantities to be considered health supplements.
While red wine may have some cardioprotective components, studies have shown that many are drinking much more than recommended, and this has an increased mortality attributed to it. Currently, it is estimated that around 37 million US adults excessively intake alcohol, and binge drink an average of 7 drinks on an occasion. As a result, there is a higher mortality rate from excessive alcohol consumption with an estimated 95,000 deaths a year in the United States. (1)
What Is The French Paradox?
The idea that there may be health benefits from consuming red wine originates from an observation made about heart disease rates in France. Despite a relatively high consumption of saturated fat and use of cigarettes, there seemed to be a relatively low mortality rate of heart disease. This became known as the French Paradox (2). It was thought that the lower risk of heart disease was from the French people’s relatively high intake of red wine, which was thought to have some protective effects. There still is a lack of consensus on the validity of this theory, which became known as the French Paradox.
Alcohol And Heart Disease
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There are several epidemiologic studies that look into the relationship between alcohol intake and heart disease and some have found that there may be some benefits associated with low to moderate alcohol intake. Studies have found that a J-shaped curve modeled the relationship between alcohol intake and heart disease. As suggested from its name, the curve follows a pattern in the shape of the letter J, dipping at the lowest point of the curve. This point is also known as a “sweet spot” where a light-moderate alcohol intake is associated with the lowest mortality rate (3). However, it is crucial to acknowledge that there has been no randomized controlled trial data that tests for red wine’s role in cardioprotection.
So, Is Red Wine Good For You?
So should you drink alcohol, and specifically red wine to protect your heart? In the context of a healthy diet, occasional moderate wine intake may be reasonable. “Moderate consumption” is very important here, and may be a lot less than most of us are used to. As defined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 edition, one alcoholic drink consists of 14 grams (0.6 fl. oz) of pure alcohol with 5 fluid ounces of wine equivalent to one drink. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than 1 drink per day for a woman (4).
It is also important to avoid binge drinking, which is defined as consuming 4 or more alcoholic drinks at a time for a woman (4). Binge drinking has many adverse effects on health and can be a sign of alcohol addiction.
Do you enjoy a glass of wine or a great cocktail every now and then? Great, be sure to enjoy responsibly and drink in moderation. On the other hand, if you don’t particularly enjoy wine or other types of alcohol, there is no solid evidence you should start drinking for the prevention of heart disease. Also, remember that the possible heart benefits from alcohol consumption must be balanced out with other well-established health risks of alcohol consumption like liver disease and breast cancer in women. While occasional moderate wine intake is probably ok if it is something you enjoy, eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the best practices for cardioprotection and good heart health.
- “Excessive Alcohol Use.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 21 Sept. 2020.
- Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. Lancet. 1992 Jun 20;339(8808):1523-6. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)91277-f. PMID: 1351198.
- Shaper AG, Wannamethee SG. The J-shaped curve and changes in drinking habit. Novartis Found Symp. 1998;216:173-88; discussion 188-92. doi: 10.1002/9780470515549.ch11. PMID: 9949793.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. DietaryGuidelines.gov.