The French may be on to something: Despite a diet heavy in saturated fats (think: rich cheeses and buttery croissants), French rates of obesity and heart disease are relatively low, causing researches to ponder the connection between the French fondness for red wine and the French ParadoxModerate red wine consumption and cardiovascular disease risk: beyond the “French paradox”. Lippi, G., Franchini, M., Favaloro, E.J., et al. Diagnostica Ematochimica, Azienda Ospedaliero-Universitaria di Parma, Italy. Seminars in Thrombosis and Hemostasis 2010 Feb; 36(1):59-70..
Moderate alcohol consumption, one to three drinks per day, is shown to improve heart health and circulation. In some studies, moderate drinkers were associated with the lowest mortality rates. Alcoholic beverages, including wine, are credited with increasing “good” HDL cholesterol levels (HDL cholesterol basically acts like the body’s maintenance crew; scavenging and removing LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol).
But remain wary: the bulk of these pro-wine studies were done on mice and not verified on humans. Plus, the mice weren’t lucky enough to drink actual wine— just fed high doses of pure resvertrol far larger than a human could get from drinking any reasonable amount of wine.
But, alas, all wines are not created equal. Dark red wines made from a grape with thick skin, like Malbec, are full of resveratrol. Other antioxidant winners include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinor Noir, and ChardonnayAntioxidant capacities and phenolics levels of French wines from different varieties and vintages. Landrault, N., Poucheret, P., Ravel, P., et al. Département d’Oenologie and Laboratoire de Pharmacologie, Faculté de Pharmacie, Université de Montpellier I, France. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2001 Jul;49(7):3341-8.. Don’t drink (or simply can’t stand) either? Consider purple grape juice or a resveratrol supplement to reap similar benefits.
One thing to keep in mind: one serving of wine is only five ounces. Drinking the whole bottle doesn’t double (or quadruple) the benefits, and drinking too much can lead to cancers and other diseases. Like any indulgence, moderation is key: the USDA recommends no more than five ounces for women and ten ounces for men per day. With these limitations in mind, go grab that glass. Salut!
Updated January 2012
*Note: The original version of this story appeared on May 27, 2011. In January 2012, a researcher of red wine whose findings were used in the original article was accused of fraudulent research on the subject. All research by this scientist originally cited in this article has since been removed and replaced.