Need a reason to celebrate National Wine Day? Here are 5

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published February 18, 2019

Key Takeaways

For thousands of years, wine has been a part of the human experience. The earliest evidence of wine production dates back to 4,100 BC in Armenia. Since then, this beverage, made from fermented grapes, has held a place in social, religious, and medicinal practices throughout the world.      

Only recently have researchers begun to find evidence of the possible therapeutic benefits wine may have. Although wine’s benefits for the cardiovascular system are well known, it’s not the only body system that may benefit.

To celebrate National Drink Wine Day 2019, here’s a list of some of the positive health effects wine may have.

Heart health. Although researchers have not directly assessed the specific effects of wine on the risk of developing heart disease or stroke, there is evidence that the incidence of heart disease in people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol is lower than in those who do not drink.

In some observational studies, drinking red wine—and other alcoholic beverages—was associated with an increase in high-density lipoproteins, decreased blood clot formation, and decreased vascular damage caused by low-density lipoproteins. This may be due, in part, to resveratrol, which is a polyphenol found in red wine. 

“Drinking a glass of wine is good for the heart in the sense that the main mechanism by which alcohol protects the heart is increasing good cholesterol. The grape skin provides flavonoids and other antioxidant substances that protect the heart and vessels from the damaging effects of free oxygen radicals produced by our body,” Prakash Deedwania, MD, chief, Cardiology Division, and professor of medicine, University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA, told the American Heart Association (AHA).

Although the AHA does not currently recommend drinking wine or any other alcoholic beverage to lower cardiovascular risk, it does strongly advise moderation should you choose to do so. This translates to an average of one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women.

Glycemic health. The cardiovascular protections red wine may afford could be especially valuable in patients with diabetes.

Alcoholic beverages, including wine, can lower blood sugar levels. Further, both the American Diabetes Association and the AHA recommend the Mediterranean diet—which includes moderate wine consumption—for those with type 2 diabetes who wish to improve their glycemic control and lower cardiovascular risk factors. A higher adherence to this diet is associated with a 20%-23% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, with a 28% to 30% reduced risk of cardiovascular events.

“This is particularly true for diabetics because they have been shown to have a high production of free oxygen radicals.  But we don’t have any evidence specifically related to diabetes patients,” said Dr.  Deedwania.

Gastrointestinal health. Researchers recently reported on the health benefits of fermented foods, which included wine. The fermentation process may actually enhance the nutritive and health-regulating properties of foods, they noted. Fermented foods can also be an important source of live microorganisms, and many of the species found in these foods are phylogenetically related to probiotics.

“Fermented foods and beverages were among the first processed food products consumed by humans…Although only a limited number of clinical studies on fermented foods have been performed, there is evidence that these foods provide health benefits well-beyond the starting food materials,” researchers concluded.

Respiratory health. Another polyphenol found in red wine, ellagic acid, may inhibit the proliferation of lung cancer cells via induction of autophagy. Ellagic acid also demonstrates anti-lung cancer effects in vitro and in vivo, according to a recent study in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine. In previous studies, researchers have shown that ellagic acid is a potent antioxidant and may have preventive effects in several types of cancer.

Brain health. Low levels of alcohol consumption may reduce inflammation and help the brain clear toxins, including ones associated with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a recent study published in Scientific Reports.

“Prolonged intake of excessive amounts of ethanol is known to have adverse effects on the central nervous system,” said lead author Maiken Nedergaard, MD, DMSc, co-director, Center for Translational Neuromedicine, Department of Neurosurgery, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, NY.  “However, in this study we have shown for the first time that low doses of alcohol are potentially beneficial to brain health, namely it improves the brain’s ability to remove waste.”

Dr. Nedergaard and colleagues found that mice exposed to low levels of alcohol consumption (about 2.5 drinks/day) had less inflammation in the brain and were more efficient at removing waste from their brains compared with controls.

“Studies have shown that low-to-moderate alcohol intake is associated with a lesser risk of dementia, while heavy drinking for many years confers an increased risk of cognitive decline. This study may help explain why this occurs. Specifically, low doses of alcohol appear to benefit overall brain health,” noted Dr. Nedergaard.

Perhaps it was no accident that Louis Pasteur, considered by some to be the father of immunology, held wine in the highest esteem, and went as far as to say: “Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages.”

Or perhaps Ernest Hemingway said it best: “Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing.”

The Greeks worshipped Dionysus (Bacchus), the god of wine. Maybe they already knew what we are just beginning to prove: wine may be good for the body and mind.

If you plan on celebrating National Drink Wine Day today, remember to always drink in moderation.

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