Do you enjoy an occasional glass of red wine? You’ve probably heard red wine offers health benefits. Red wine is packed with antioxidants and other compounds that are good for your heart, improve cholesterol levels, and may even help you live longer. So go ahead, pour yourself a glass at the end of the day — just make sure to keep your wine consumption to no more than two glasses per day to avoid the negative effects of too much alcohol.
The following are 10 ways that a daily glass of red wine may improve your health.
Red wine contains numerous beneficial compounds, including various antioxidants and polyphenols. We’ve all heard of antioxidants — they’re the substances found in fruits and vegetables that combat free radicals, which cause damage to cells, leading to premature aging and increasing the risk of disease. Antioxidants can help lower the risk of diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Diets high in antioxidants can also ward off signs of aging, boost the immune system, and help with weight loss or weight maintenance.
Polyphenols are another type of beneficial compound found in plant foods. The polyphenols in red wine — in particular one known as resveratrol — have been shown to increase the production and release of nitric oxide, which helps expand blood vessels, increase blood flow, and decrease arterial plaque growth and blood clotting, all of which may provide long-term protective benefits for the heart. These same compounds are also plentiful in dark berries, nuts, olives, and unsweetened cocoa.
Another way that red wine can benefit cardiovascular health is by improving cholesterol levels. Drinking one to two glasses of red wine every day can both help increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind) and reduce LDL cholesterol (the bad kind).
HDL (high-density lipoprotein) carries cholesterol back to the liver, where it can be removed from the body, and removes fatty deposits from the walls of large blood vessels. A study of postmenopausal women found that drinking 13 ounces of red wine per day for six weeks increased HDL concentrations by 18 percent, and reduced LDL concentrations by 8 percent.
Red wine has also been shown to increase LDL particle size, which is an important indicator in cardiovascular health. Smaller LDL particles are more dangerous and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Chronic inflammation has been implicated in most major diseases, including heart disease, cancer, bone loss, digestive problems, and even depression. Red wine has been shown to lower levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of low-grade chronic inflammation. High levels of C-reactive protein are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, especially when combined with high LDL levels and low HDL levels. One study of healthy women found that drinking six ounces of red wine every day for four weeks led to a 25 percent reduction in CRP levels.
A glass of wine a day may help control type 2 diabetes. A two-year study examined the effects of a Mediterranean diet — which includes red wine — on people with diabetes. Everyone in the study ate the same foods, which included plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with healthy fats such as fish, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. Some of the participants drank one glass of red wine every day, some drank white wine, and some drank mineral water. At the end of the study, researchers found that the wine drinkers — both red and white — saw improvements in blood sugar control. Those who drank red wine also saw increases in HDL cholesterol levels.
If your goal is weight loss, drinking red wine may actually help. Red wine contains a compound known as piceatannol, which may help block the production of fat cells.
Piceatannol alters the functions of genes during the process in which immature fat cells grow into mature fat cells. When piceatannol is present, this process can be delayed or completely inhibited. Piceatannol binds to insulin receptors in immature fat cells, preventing insulin from activating genes that control further development of the cells.
Red wine may also promote weight loss in another way: resveratrol may help convert excess white fat into something called beige fat, which may actually help you burn more calories.
Resveratrol is also well-known for its protective benefits, which may help lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease as well as heart disease. A year-long study of people with mild or moderate Alzheimer’s disease found that a daily resveratrol supplement led to improvements in the participants’ ability to perform daily tasks, such as dressing and bathing themselves. Those who took the resveratrol supplement also had lower levels of a protein that accumulates in the brain of Alzheimer’s patients.
Resveratrol may also help reduce inflammation in the brain, which can interfere with nerve connections.
The study doesn’t necessarily indicate that red wine can cure or prevent Alzheimer’s. The amount of resveratrol given to study participants was extremely high — more than you could obtain from drinking a glass of wine every day. So while drinking wine won’t necessarily make you immune to cognitive decline, it may offer some protective benefits for the brain that aren’t yet fully understood.
Omega-3 fatty acids are important for good health for a number of reasons: they help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attack, increase HDL cholesterol, reduce stress hormones, and even reduce the risk of depression. Yet most people are deficient in this important nutrient, which is found primarily in fish oil.
Studies indicate, however, that drinking red wine may help boost levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the body. A population study found that women who drank one glass of alcohol per day and men who drank two glasses per day had higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells. The effects were strongest in red wine drinkers compared to individuals who drank beer or other forms of alcohol. The findings suggest that wine may affect the body’s metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids.
Red wine may help maintain healthy blood vessels, thanks to polyphenols known as procyanidins. These compounds occur in higher concentrations in wine from southwestern France and Sardinia, Italy — areas that are also associated with increased longevity.
Procyanidins may help improve vascular health by suppressing a compound called endothelin, which constricts blood vessels and raise blood pressure. High levels of endothelin are associated with several types of cancer, high blood pressure, and other cardiovascular disorders.
The next time you’re in the mood for a glass of alcohol, remember the abundant antioxidants present in red wine. Drinking one or two glasses a day may be good for your heart and increase your longevity! Remember when drinking any type of alcohol to drink extra water in order to stay hydrated.
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