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Alcohol and Health

The Health Benefits of Wine and Associated Risks

Published:
March 13, 2024
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22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
A team of researchers and psychologists who specialize in behavioral health and neuroscience. This group collaborates to produce insightful and evidence-based content.
March 13, 2024
·
22 min read
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Certified recovery coach specialized in helping everyone redefine their relationship with alcohol. His approach in coaching focuses on habit formation and addressing the stress in our lives.
March 13, 2024
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22 min read
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Recognized by Fortune and Fast Company as a top innovator shaping the future of health and known for his pivotal role in helping individuals change their relationship with alcohol.
March 13, 2024
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22 min read
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Reframe Content Team
March 13, 2024
·
22 min read

When it comes to choosing a healthier alcoholic drink, wine has a particularly good reputation. Maybe you’ve poured yourself a glass of wine and justified it by saying it’s good for your health. Or maybe you’ve heard someone say that wine has heart health benefits. But is any of this true? Is wine really good for us — and if so, how much is too much? 

In this post, we’ll explore the health benefits of wine as well as the associated risks. We’ll also offer some tips for drinking wine in a healthy manner. Let’s dive in!

Is Red Wine Good for You?: The Benefits of Red Wine

First things first: whenever we hear or read something about the health benefits of wine, it usually has to do with red wine. Why? Well, unlike white wine, red wine contains a large amount of resveratrol — a natural antioxidant that comes from the skin of red grapes. 

Antioxidants are important because they help our body fight off free radicals — dangerous molecules that attack good molecules in charge of promoting essential body functions. If the level of free radicals in our bodies becomes too high, it can cause damage to our organs and tissues and result in various illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. 

Since there are antioxidants in red wine, drinking it in small amounts can help protect our brain, heart, and body. In fact, studies have found that drinking red wine in moderation has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), certain types of cancer (such as basal cell, colon, prostrate, and ovarian), and type 2 diabetes. It’s also been linked to reduced risk of dementia and depression. 

Resveratrol in particular has been linked with many health benefits, such as fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. For instance, studies have noted that resveratrol may reduce blood pressure and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” type of cholesterol. 

Similarly, a recent study reported that drinking red wine is linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of disease and death in the United States. It may also lower the risk of stroke. Furthermore, one study found that red wine may even contribute to a healthy gut by boosting healthy gut bacteria. 

Overall, research indicates that consuming small to moderate amounts of red wine does offer a number of health benefits. The key word here is moderation! Moderation is defined as one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for females and two glasses of wine for males. Overindulging in wine can bring with it a variety of health risks, as we’ll see below!

What are the Health Risks of Drinking Wine?

It’s worth repeating that only small to moderate amounts of red wine may bring health benefits. Drinking any amount of alcohol in excess — including red wine — can have the opposite effect, putting us at greater risk for a variety of health complications. Let’s take a closer look at the side effects of drinking wine every night:

  • Liver damage. Regular alcohol consumption can cause liver damage or disease. In extreme cases, it can lead to liver cirrhosis, scarring of the liver that cannot be healed. However, prolonged alcohol consumption can also cause fatty liver disease and alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Pancreatitis. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to acute or chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of chronic pancreatitis is caused by chronic alcohol abuse. Chronic pancreatitis also puts us at risk for diabetes. 
  • Heart problems. Regularly consuming alcohol can lead to a variety of heart issues, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is when our heart beats abnormally. It can also put us at risk for hypertension (high blood pressure), and cardiomyopathy — a serious condition marked by a weakened heart muscle and inability to pump blood effectively.
  • Diabetes. Drinking heavily can reduce our body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Similarly, since wine is full of calories, the more we drink, the greater our risk of becoming overweight, which can also put us at risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Heavy, long-term consumption of alcohol can lead to a condition known as alcoholic gastritis — the inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. This can vary in severity depending on how long we’ve been drinking. Prolonged alcohol misuse can cause alcohol gut inflammation symptoms that can lead to long-term damage. 
  • Gout. Alcohol can also increase our risk of developing gout, which is a form of arthritis that causes severe pain, swelling, stiffness, and redness in one or more joints, typically in the toes. Research shows that as little as one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period can cause gout. 
  • Cancer. Research shows that even moderate alcohol use can increase our risk of various types of cancer, including mouth and throat cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. In general, the more we drink, the higher our cancer risk.
  • Mental health problems. Heavy drinkers are at a much greater risk for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. This is because alcohol is a depressant and can upset the delicate balance of important neurotransmitters for regulating our mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. It can also lead to greater stress.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the risks associated with regularly consuming a large amount of wine, or any type of alcohol for that matter. Alcohol truly affects nearly every aspect of our health, which is why it’s important to limit our consumption or quit drinking entirely.

Health Risks of Drinking Wine

How Healthy Is Drinking Wine Everyday? 

So, now that we have a better understanding of the health benefits and associated risks of wine, let’s get a bit more practical. How much wine is okay to drink, and how much wine is too much? 

Generally speaking, the health benefits of wine only apply if we’re consuming it in moderate amounts. This means no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine a day for women and no more than two glasses for men. Keep in mind that this is the total amount of alcohol we should consume in a day. Furthermore, it’s also recommended that we go at least 1-2 days a week without alcohol.

Just because red wine offers several health benefits doesn’t mean we should drink it. It’s not the red wine itself that is beneficial but rather its antioxidant properties, including the natural antioxidant resveratrol. And the good news is that we can get resveratrol in other ways, such as eating berries and grapes — which is better for us anyway!

In general, there are large amounts of antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grounds, and smaller amounts of antioxidants in meats, poultry, and fish. Some specific antioxidant powerhouse foods include pomegranates, salmon, grapes, apples, spinach, dark chocolate, blueberries, and beets. An antioxidant called quercetin, which is found in apples, citrus, fruits, onions, parsley, and more, effectively kills abnormal cells while keeping healthy cells intact.

At the end of the day, getting our antioxidants from natural food is more beneficial than getting it from a glass of wine because of the health risks associated with alcohol.

7 Tips for Drinking Wine in Moderation

If we do choose to drink wine, there are several things we can do to help us drink in moderation and in a healthy manner. Here are 7 tips:

  1. Count your drinks. When you’re aware of how much you’re drinking, you can make better choices. Make it a point to count your drinks using a notepad in your phone or in the Reframe app’s drink tracker. At the very most, try limiting yourself to one glass of wine every hour. It can also be helpful to set a limit before you start drinking to prevent overindulgence.
  2. Sip wine slowly. It’s always important to drink alcohol slowly, but it’s even more important with wine since it’s truly meant to be savored. Wine is full of flavor, so try to truly savor each sip. It can be helpful to incorporate mindful drinking here as it can help us focus on the experience of enjoying wine rather than mindlessly gulping it down.
  3. Don’t mix wine with other alcohol. It’s best practice not to mix different types of alcohol as doing so can rapidly bring up BAC levels and make us more intoxicated. Plus, we tend to consume more alcohol over a shorter period of time when we mix different types of alcohol. So, if you start with a glass of wine, stick to just wine!
  4. Alternate with water. Water should be our best friend while drinking alcohol. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it promotes water loss through urine, causing us to become dehydrated. Drinking water while drinking wine not only helps us stay hydrated but can help prevent those dreaded hangovers, too. Try alternating between a glass of water and a glass of wine.
  5. Opt for Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is considered the best wine for heart health. This is because it contains the highest concentration of resveratrol — the natural antioxidant that offers a number of health benefits. Some of the other best wines for heart health include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.
  6. Opt for low-carb wines. Try opting for drier wines with lower carb contents, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noirs. Look for “Sec” or “Trocken” as these have lower sugar content. Also look for Brut wines, as they usually have fewer carbohydrates. Brut Nature wine is one of the driest wines, with only 0 to 3 grams of sugar in a bottle!
  7. Eat or snack while drinking wine. Finally, whenever you drink wine, try to pair it with a healthy meal or snack. Having food in our stomach slows the processing of alcohol. Consider options like whole-grain crackers, nuts, or a plate of fresh vegetables. It can be helpful to prepare this ahead of time to prevent us from reaching for something unhealthy, or worse, getting the “drunchies”! 

Remember: the health benefits of wine only apply if we’re drinking wine in small amounts. But even so, our physical and mental health will reap the most benefits by reducing our alcohol consumption or eliminating it entirely. 

The Bottom Line

Drinking red wine in small amounts can offer some health benefits, such as lowering our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. This is largely due to the antioxidant properties found in red wine, which help fight off various diseases. However, regularly consuming a large amount of wine can compromise our health and well-being, putting us at greater risk for a variety of complications — from liver damage and pancreatitis to gout and depression. Wine’s potential health benefits shouldn’t justify our drinking. We would be better off getting our antioxidants from natural food sources rather than indulging in a glass of wine.

If you want to cut back on drinking but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

When it comes to choosing a healthier alcoholic drink, wine has a particularly good reputation. Maybe you’ve poured yourself a glass of wine and justified it by saying it’s good for your health. Or maybe you’ve heard someone say that wine has heart health benefits. But is any of this true? Is wine really good for us — and if so, how much is too much? 

In this post, we’ll explore the health benefits of wine as well as the associated risks. We’ll also offer some tips for drinking wine in a healthy manner. Let’s dive in!

Is Red Wine Good for You?: The Benefits of Red Wine

First things first: whenever we hear or read something about the health benefits of wine, it usually has to do with red wine. Why? Well, unlike white wine, red wine contains a large amount of resveratrol — a natural antioxidant that comes from the skin of red grapes. 

Antioxidants are important because they help our body fight off free radicals — dangerous molecules that attack good molecules in charge of promoting essential body functions. If the level of free radicals in our bodies becomes too high, it can cause damage to our organs and tissues and result in various illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. 

Since there are antioxidants in red wine, drinking it in small amounts can help protect our brain, heart, and body. In fact, studies have found that drinking red wine in moderation has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure (hypertension), certain types of cancer (such as basal cell, colon, prostrate, and ovarian), and type 2 diabetes. It’s also been linked to reduced risk of dementia and depression. 

Resveratrol in particular has been linked with many health benefits, such as fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer. For instance, studies have noted that resveratrol may reduce blood pressure and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol — the “good” type of cholesterol. 

Similarly, a recent study reported that drinking red wine is linked with a lower risk of coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of disease and death in the United States. It may also lower the risk of stroke. Furthermore, one study found that red wine may even contribute to a healthy gut by boosting healthy gut bacteria. 

Overall, research indicates that consuming small to moderate amounts of red wine does offer a number of health benefits. The key word here is moderation! Moderation is defined as one 5-ounce glass of wine per day for females and two glasses of wine for males. Overindulging in wine can bring with it a variety of health risks, as we’ll see below!

What are the Health Risks of Drinking Wine?

It’s worth repeating that only small to moderate amounts of red wine may bring health benefits. Drinking any amount of alcohol in excess — including red wine — can have the opposite effect, putting us at greater risk for a variety of health complications. Let’s take a closer look at the side effects of drinking wine every night:

  • Liver damage. Regular alcohol consumption can cause liver damage or disease. In extreme cases, it can lead to liver cirrhosis, scarring of the liver that cannot be healed. However, prolonged alcohol consumption can also cause fatty liver disease and alcoholic hepatitis.
  • Pancreatitis. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to acute or chronic pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas. In fact, 70 to 80 percent of chronic pancreatitis is caused by chronic alcohol abuse. Chronic pancreatitis also puts us at risk for diabetes. 
  • Heart problems. Regularly consuming alcohol can lead to a variety of heart issues, such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), which is when our heart beats abnormally. It can also put us at risk for hypertension (high blood pressure), and cardiomyopathy — a serious condition marked by a weakened heart muscle and inability to pump blood effectively.
  • Diabetes. Drinking heavily can reduce our body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can lead to type 2 diabetes. Similarly, since wine is full of calories, the more we drink, the greater our risk of becoming overweight, which can also put us at risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Gastrointestinal issues. Heavy, long-term consumption of alcohol can lead to a condition known as alcoholic gastritis — the inflammation or irritation of the stomach lining. This can vary in severity depending on how long we’ve been drinking. Prolonged alcohol misuse can cause alcohol gut inflammation symptoms that can lead to long-term damage. 
  • Gout. Alcohol can also increase our risk of developing gout, which is a form of arthritis that causes severe pain, swelling, stiffness, and redness in one or more joints, typically in the toes. Research shows that as little as one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period can cause gout. 
  • Cancer. Research shows that even moderate alcohol use can increase our risk of various types of cancer, including mouth and throat cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. In general, the more we drink, the higher our cancer risk.
  • Mental health problems. Heavy drinkers are at a much greater risk for depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. This is because alcohol is a depressant and can upset the delicate balance of important neurotransmitters for regulating our mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. It can also lead to greater stress.

Keep in mind that these are just some of the risks associated with regularly consuming a large amount of wine, or any type of alcohol for that matter. Alcohol truly affects nearly every aspect of our health, which is why it’s important to limit our consumption or quit drinking entirely.

Health Risks of Drinking Wine

How Healthy Is Drinking Wine Everyday? 

So, now that we have a better understanding of the health benefits and associated risks of wine, let’s get a bit more practical. How much wine is okay to drink, and how much wine is too much? 

Generally speaking, the health benefits of wine only apply if we’re consuming it in moderate amounts. This means no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine a day for women and no more than two glasses for men. Keep in mind that this is the total amount of alcohol we should consume in a day. Furthermore, it’s also recommended that we go at least 1-2 days a week without alcohol.

Just because red wine offers several health benefits doesn’t mean we should drink it. It’s not the red wine itself that is beneficial but rather its antioxidant properties, including the natural antioxidant resveratrol. And the good news is that we can get resveratrol in other ways, such as eating berries and grapes — which is better for us anyway!

In general, there are large amounts of antioxidants in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grounds, and smaller amounts of antioxidants in meats, poultry, and fish. Some specific antioxidant powerhouse foods include pomegranates, salmon, grapes, apples, spinach, dark chocolate, blueberries, and beets. An antioxidant called quercetin, which is found in apples, citrus, fruits, onions, parsley, and more, effectively kills abnormal cells while keeping healthy cells intact.

At the end of the day, getting our antioxidants from natural food is more beneficial than getting it from a glass of wine because of the health risks associated with alcohol.

7 Tips for Drinking Wine in Moderation

If we do choose to drink wine, there are several things we can do to help us drink in moderation and in a healthy manner. Here are 7 tips:

  1. Count your drinks. When you’re aware of how much you’re drinking, you can make better choices. Make it a point to count your drinks using a notepad in your phone or in the Reframe app’s drink tracker. At the very most, try limiting yourself to one glass of wine every hour. It can also be helpful to set a limit before you start drinking to prevent overindulgence.
  2. Sip wine slowly. It’s always important to drink alcohol slowly, but it’s even more important with wine since it’s truly meant to be savored. Wine is full of flavor, so try to truly savor each sip. It can be helpful to incorporate mindful drinking here as it can help us focus on the experience of enjoying wine rather than mindlessly gulping it down.
  3. Don’t mix wine with other alcohol. It’s best practice not to mix different types of alcohol as doing so can rapidly bring up BAC levels and make us more intoxicated. Plus, we tend to consume more alcohol over a shorter period of time when we mix different types of alcohol. So, if you start with a glass of wine, stick to just wine!
  4. Alternate with water. Water should be our best friend while drinking alcohol. Since alcohol is a diuretic, it promotes water loss through urine, causing us to become dehydrated. Drinking water while drinking wine not only helps us stay hydrated but can help prevent those dreaded hangovers, too. Try alternating between a glass of water and a glass of wine.
  5. Opt for Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is considered the best wine for heart health. This is because it contains the highest concentration of resveratrol — the natural antioxidant that offers a number of health benefits. Some of the other best wines for heart health include Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec.
  6. Opt for low-carb wines. Try opting for drier wines with lower carb contents, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noirs. Look for “Sec” or “Trocken” as these have lower sugar content. Also look for Brut wines, as they usually have fewer carbohydrates. Brut Nature wine is one of the driest wines, with only 0 to 3 grams of sugar in a bottle!
  7. Eat or snack while drinking wine. Finally, whenever you drink wine, try to pair it with a healthy meal or snack. Having food in our stomach slows the processing of alcohol. Consider options like whole-grain crackers, nuts, or a plate of fresh vegetables. It can be helpful to prepare this ahead of time to prevent us from reaching for something unhealthy, or worse, getting the “drunchies”! 

Remember: the health benefits of wine only apply if we’re drinking wine in small amounts. But even so, our physical and mental health will reap the most benefits by reducing our alcohol consumption or eliminating it entirely. 

The Bottom Line

Drinking red wine in small amounts can offer some health benefits, such as lowering our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. This is largely due to the antioxidant properties found in red wine, which help fight off various diseases. However, regularly consuming a large amount of wine can compromise our health and well-being, putting us at greater risk for a variety of complications — from liver damage and pancreatitis to gout and depression. Wine’s potential health benefits shouldn’t justify our drinking. We would be better off getting our antioxidants from natural food sources rather than indulging in a glass of wine.

If you want to cut back on drinking but don’t know where to start, consider trying Reframe. We’re a science-backed app that has helped millions of people cut back on their alcohol consumption and enhance their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 

Summary FAQs

1. Is red wine good for you?

Drinking small to moderate amounts of red wine can offer some health benefits, such as lowering our risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. This is because it contains resveratrol — a natural antioxidant that comes from the skin of red grapes.

2. What are antioxidants and why are they important? 

Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals in our bodies. Free radicals are dangerous molecules that attack good molecules in charge of promoting essential body functions. If the level of free radicals in our bodies becomes too high, it can cause damage to our organs and tissues and result in various illnesses, such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s. 

3. What are the health risks of drinking wine?

Heavy, long-term consumption of wine (or any other type of alcohol) can lead to a variety of health complications, such as liver damage, pancreatitis, heart problems, diabetes, gastrointestinal issues, gout, cancer, and mental health problems.

4. How much wine is too much?

Generally speaking, the health benefits of wine only apply if we’re consuming it in moderate amounts. This means no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine a day for women and no more than two glasses for men.

5. What are some healthier alternatives to wine?

Getting our antioxidants from natural food is more beneficial than getting it from a glass of wine because of the health risks associated with alcohol. We can find antioxidants in foods like berries, grapes, vegetables, and nuts.

6. What is the best wine for heart health? 

Pinot Noir is considered the best wine for heart health. This is because it contains the highest concentration of resveratrol — the natural antioxidant that offers a number of health benefits.

7. What are some tips for drinking wine in moderation?

You can drink wine in a healthy manner by counting your drinks, drinking plenty of water, sipping the wine slowly, not mixing it with other alcohol, and eating or snacking while drinking.

Develop Healthier Drinking Habits With Reframe

Although it isn’t a treatment for alcohol use disorder (AUD), the Reframe app can help you cut back on drinking gradually, with the science-backed knowledge to empower you 100% of the way. Our proven program has helped millions of people around the world drink less and live more. And we want to help you get there, too!

The Reframe app equips you with the knowledge and skills you need to not only survive drinking less, but to thrive while you navigate the journey. Our daily research-backed readings teach you the neuroscience of alcohol, and our in-app Toolkit provides the resources and activities you need to navigate each challenge.

You’ll meet millions of fellow Reframers in our 24/7 Forum chat and daily Zoom check-in meetings. Receive encouragement from people worldwide who know exactly what you’re going through! You’ll also have the opportunity to connect with our licensed Reframe coaches for more personalized guidance.

Plus, we’re always introducing new features to optimize your in-app experience. We recently launched our in-app chatbot, Melody, powered by the world’s most powerful AI technology. Melody is here to help as you adjust to a life with less (or no) alcohol. 

And that’s not all! Every month, we launch fun challenges, like Dry/Damp January, Mental Health May, and Outdoorsy June. You won’t want to miss out on the chance to participate alongside fellow Reframers (or solo if that’s more your thing!).

The Reframe app is free for 7 days, so you don’t have anything to lose by trying it. Are you ready to feel empowered and discover life beyond alcohol? Then download our app through the App Store or Google Play today!

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