If you enjoy a sneaky glass of red each night, you might do so assuming it’s good for you but the medical community has long debated the merits of a daily cup of cabernet.

The health benefits you might have heard about (or remind yourself exist as you crack the screw cap on a Friday night) centre around antioxidants and heart health.

The Mayo Clinic reported: “the alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol – the “good” cholesterol – and protecting against artery damage.” 

House Call Doctor has written about the different kinds of cholesterol previously. We noted then that the body needs the “good cholesterol” because it helps to keep “bad cholesterol” from building up in arteries.

When it comes to antioxidants in red wine, the Mayo Clinic reported it was possible flavonoids or a substance called resveratrol were good for our tickers.

“Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart,” the Mayo Clinic reported.

You might have heard of the polyphenol called resveratrol. It’s championed as an anti-ageing powerhouse. Articles written about resveratrol research can make it sound like a fix-all for a range of modern diseases and conditions.

The jury is still out, but the research is promising.

“Resveratrol might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (“bad cholesterol”) and prevents blood clots,” the Mayo Clinic reported.

“Research in mice given resveratrol suggests that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease.”

For some perspective, to get the same dose of resveratrol used in the mice studies, “a person would have to drink more than 1,000 liters of red wine every day”.
Harvard Health warns not to buy into the hype of resveratrol – or the supplements you will surely see in the pharmacy – but eating foods that contain the compound won’t be bad for you either.

“If you believe that resveratrol will help you live longer and healthier, get it from food or wine, not by choking down resveratrol pills,” Patrick Skerrett wrote.

“Why? Eating red grapes, blueberries, and pistachios, or having a glass of your favorite red wine, are pleasurable ways to take in resveratrol. Plus you get all the other healthful plant products that come with the resveratrol.”

Remember, despite there being some indication the antioxidants in red wine may have heart health benefits, too much of any alcohol will have a detrimental effect on your body. The medical community will always be wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol.


Not all reds are created equal

According to the BBC, the darker the wine, the better.

“Scientists have found that red wines have higher levels of polyphenols, antioxidants and, in general, the darker the wine, the higher the antioxidant content. In tests, cabernet sauvignon grapes were shown to contain the most polyphenols,” the BBC reported.