For centuries, wine has been hailed as part of a healthy diet, drunk by cultures throughout grape-growing regions of the world, and beyond – thanks to global trade. While excessive drinking can cause many negative health effects, modern science is beginning to identify links between moderate wine drinking and improved health. Before making any drastic dietary changes, it’s wise to consult with a health professional; however, in many cases, adding a moderate amount of red wine to one’s diet may yield many health benefits.
Many studies on the health benefits of red wine attribute the medical value of moderate wine drinking to one component: resveratrol. This particular antioxidant has been linked to several critical functions, from increasing HDL (or “good” cholesterol) to rejuvenating skin and reducing visible signs of aging. Other benefits associated with resveratrol include an improved metabolism, reduced inflammation, lowered risk of coronary health disease, inhibition of cancer cells, and increased longevity. Some studies have even identified a possible connection between resveratrol and the body’s ability to metabolize a high-fat diet without excessive weight gain. While resveratrol has been linked with such varied effects in multiple clinical trials, physicians advise drinking wine moderately, meaning only one to two glasses per day.
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Scientists have also identified red wine as a potential factor in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Trials have linked these positive effects to various antioxidants in the skins and seeds of the grape. Because red wine is made with the whole grape, whereas the skins are removed from white wine early in production, red wine is typically associated with these positive effects. Over 100 studies have shown an inverse relationship between moderate wine consumption and the risk of heart attack, atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries), coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death. However, this relationship has not been shown to exist for younger adults.
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Studies have determined that men who drink three to seven glasses of red wine per week are 52% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. As with many of red wine’s other apparent benefits, scientists trace the relationship to various antioxidants and, most specifically, to resveratrol. Drinking moderate amounts of red wine may reduce the risk of an enlarged prostate and of prostate cancer. Some studies, focused on recovery, have shown that patients recovering from prostate cancers, including aggressive forms of the disease, recovered better when they drank moderate quantities of red wine.
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Drinking moderate quantities of wine and some other alcohols may also reduce the risk of dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of brain function decline. Studies have found that the cognitive abilities of moderate drinkers typically decline less rapidly than those of non-drinkers in old age. Specifically, red wine is associated with the improved brain function. However, some other forms of alcohol may also yield similar results. The precise reason for the cognitive benefits remains unknown, and may be due to reservatrol or other compounds present in wine, or they may be related to larger lifestyle and dietary factors.
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Besides the many possible benefits of reservatrol, the positive effects on cardiovascular health, improved prostate health and mental health, moderate consumption of wine may be tied to an array of additional health benefits. Antioxidants in wine are found to fight free radical damage, thereby reducing the likelihood of many degenerative diseases. Moderate consumption of red wine may also reduce the risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity-related diseases. Among the other benefits associated with red wine are a lowered risk of stroke, lower LDL (or “bad” cholesterol) levels and a stronger immune system.