You may have heard that red wine is good for your heart. Before you pour a glass, let’s take a closer look at the research from a review article in the journal Circulation.
The theory that red wine is linked to improved cardiovascular health was first proposed in 1992 as an answer to what some researchers called the French Paradox. The French Paradox refers to the fact that although French people, in general, eat high amounts of saturated fat, which is known to be bad for the heart, they seemed to have better cardiovascular health. These researchers hypothesized that the French Paradox could be explained by the fact that French people also generally consume moderate amounts of red wine.
Wine lovers jumped on the opportunity for their favorite drink to have positive health impacts, and this was followed by a wave of scientific research into the effects of red wine on the heart. Over 25 years later, we have learned a lot about how different components of red wine might impact heart health. Is red wine good for your heart, though? We still don’t really know.
Here are some key takeaways from the literature to date:
- If you enjoy a glass of wine now and then, the major components in wine that could provide benefits to your heart are called polyphenols. There are two classes of polyphenols: flavonoids and nonflavonoids. Both are considered antioxidants found in plant-based foods including fruits and vegetables, nuts, grains, and beverages like wine and tea.
- The two most researched polyphenols are the flavonoid quercetin and the nonflavonoid resveratrol. Studies have shown that they may have protective health benefits, and they are both found in wine.
- Wine is only one of many ways to consume these antioxidants. Resveratrol is found in grapes and wine, but also in berries, peanuts, and legumes. The highest amount of quercetin in wine is found in shiraz red wine, with 2.11 mg of quercetin per 100 g of wine. To put that in perspective, 100 g of raw capers contains 234 mg of quercetin per 100 g. Other good sources of quercetin include green leafy vegetables and berries like cranberries, goji berries, and blueberries.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise that no one should begin drinking or drink more frequently based on potential health benefits.
- Researchers and clinicians agree that excessive alcohol use is bad for your heart. For women, excessive alcohol use is defined as 4 or more drinks on one occasion and 8 or more drinks per week. For men, excessive alcohol use is defined as 5 or more drinks on one occasion and 15 or more drinks per week. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of 5% beer, 8 ounces of 7% malt liquor, 5 ounces of 12% wine, and 1.5 ounces of 40% spirits or hard alcohol.
Go ahead and drink a glass of red wine – but remember that the best way to protect your heart is to exercise regularly and eat a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt, fat, and sugar.
- Read the original article “Wine and Cardiovascular Health.”
Bhagwat S, Haytowitz DB, Holden JM. USDA Database for the Flavonoid Content of Selected Foods. Release 3.1. 2014. Dhttps://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Data/Flav/Flav_R03-1.pdf Accessed 17 May 2019.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What is excessive alcohol use? Last reviewed 18 Oct 2016. https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/pdfs/excessive_alcohol_use.pdf Accessed 17 May 2019.
Haseeb S, Alexander B, Baranchuk A. Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review. Circulation 2017;136(15):1434-1448. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387
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