A lot of the health advice doctors and nutritionists give to us isn’t all that exciting. Eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise, and avoid excessive amounts of refined sugar and fat. For many, it would be a dream come true to find out that burgers and fries were just as healthy as salads, and that watching Netflix had the same benefits as going for a jog.
For this reason, when you see a headline that reads “red wine is good for you!”, it makes you want to chuck that water bottle aside and raise a glass in celebration.
Over the last decade, red wine has been hailed as somewhat of a health elixir, but is this true? Or is this another case of wishful thinking? While there are many health benefits of red wine, there are a few caveats to keep in mind.
Continue reading to separate fact and fiction, and learn how red wine can fit into a healthy lifestyle.
7 Health Benefits of Red Wine
Humans have been drinking wine for thousands of years. As such, scientists have researched how the fermented drink affects our health quite extensively. Experts say, however, that the evidence on alcohol and your health isn’t conclusive.
Here are the health benefits red wine that we know of:
1. It’s Rich in Antioxidants
Red wine grapes contain high levels of polyphenols, particularly resveratrol. These are antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress and fight inflammation. People who have a higher antioxidant status and therefore less inflammation in their bodies, tend to have a lower risk of disease .
One study asked forty adults to consume 13.5 ounces (400mL) of red wine every day for two weeks. The researchers found that at the end of the study, participants had a higher antioxidant status than when they started .
It is important to note, however, that two weeks is a very short window of time. This study was not long enough to evaluate how consuming that amount of red wine daily would affect a person’s health in the long run.
2. It May Reduce Inflammation
Red wine also contains a compound called resveratrol, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Exactly how much red wine reduces inflammation, however, is a topic for debate.
There have been a few large studies that have demonstrated red wine’s ability to reduce inflammation. One of those studies included nearly 4.5 thousand people. Another included 2900 women. In each study, participants who consumed one glass of red wine daily had reduced inflammatory markers from those who didn’t [3,4].
Other research, however, has found that red wine did not have such a dramatic effect on inflammation. For this reason, we need more research to determine exactly how much red wine can reduce inflammation.
3. It May be Good for your Heart
Thanks to its polyphenol content, red wine may reduce your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and metabolic diseases. Some studies have shown that people who drink moderate amounts of red wine may have reduced rates of heart disease compared to those who don’t .
Scientists do not universally agree on these findings, and there are other studies that red wine does not reduce your risk for heart disease .
Furthermore, red wine may interact negatively with certain medications, and excessive alcohol consumption may actually increase your blood pressure and put you at a greater risk for heart disease [7,8].
Research on this topic is ongoing, but if you have a heart condition you should speak with your doctor about whether or not red wine (or any alcohol) is safe for you to consume.
4. It Might Help You Live Longer
Studies have found that the antioxidant content in red wine may help people live longer. Red wine contains several compounds, including myricetin, quercetin, catechin and epicatechin, proanthocyanidins, anthocyanins, various phenolic acids, and the stilbene resveratrol.
In particular, resveratrol seems to have a positive effect on longevity. Researchers believe that red wine is part of the reason why people who follow the Mediterranean diet tend to live longer .
5. It May be Good for your Gut
A 2019 paper published in the journal Gastroenterology, a team of researchers in the UK found that people who drank red wine had a more diverse gut microbiome than those who drank white wine, beer, or spirits.
“While we have long known of the unexplained benefits of red wine on heart health, this study shows that moderate red wine consumption is associated with greater diversity and a healthier gut microbiota that partly explain its long debated beneficial effects on health,” said first author of the study, Dr. Caroline le Roy .
The authors of the study believe that the main reason red wine drinkers have a more diverse gut microbiome is because of the polyphenols in the drink. Among their many beneficial properties, polyphenols act as a fuel for the microbes present in our system.
6. It Can Improve Mental Health
A few studies have found that moderate consumption of wine (approximately five to fifteen grams per day) could reduce the instance of depression. That being said, heavy alcohol consumption has the opposite effect, so moderation here is important .
7. It Could Reduce Your Risk of Obesity
In their study on the effects of wine and the gut microbiome, the researchers also found that there appeared to be an association between red wine consumption, lower levels of obesity, and lower levels of “bad” cholesterol. The researchers believed this was due in part to the healthier gut microbiota.
They pointed out, however, that in the case of both the gut microbiome and obesity, drinking wine only once every two weeks was enough to observe the effects .
While there do appear to be a number of health benefits of red wine, it is important to keep in mind that there are drawbacks as well. First, that those health benefits are not all universally agreed upon in the scientific and health community.
For example, some reviews have determined that the amount of resveratrol in red wine is not enough to offer any significant health benefits .
Perhaps the most important drawback of red wine is that you reach a point of diminishing returns as you drink more of it. In most studies that demonstrate the health benefits of red wine, participants are not drinking more than one to two glasses every day. Beyond that, and you begin to experience negative side effects.
According to the CDC, long-term consequences of excessive alcohol consumption include:
- High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.
- Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and colon.
- A weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.
- Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance.
- Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.
- Social problems, including lost productivity, family problems, and unemployment.
- Alcohol use disorders, or alcohol dependence .
When it Comes to the Health Benefits of Wine, Moderation is Key
For this reason, moderation is extremely important. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans defines moderate drinking as up to one drink per day for women, and up to two drinks per day for men.
A standard drink contains 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol, which generally amounts to:
12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey) 
Can People Who Don’t Drink Get the Health Benefits of Red Wine?
If you’re not a wine-drinker, you can still get the benefits of red wine from other sources. Several fruits and vegetables provide a variety of anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory compounds.
Additionally, you don’t have to ferment grapes into wine in order for them to deliver resveratrol. There are also other food sources of the compound, including blueberries, peanut butter, and dark chocolate .
The Bottom Line
Red wine is not a requirement of good health, and the possible health benefits of red wine are not reason enough to start drinking. If you are eating a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, you will be getting all of the benefits that red wine could provide you.
If you do already enjoy red wine, that’s ok too. Red wine can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy diet, so long as you drink it in moderation.
If you live a healthy lifestyle, whether you fill your cup with water, or occasionally red wine, you can raise a glass to good health.