Drinking red wine (in moderation, of course) has long been considered as a habit that is actually good for the body, specifically for the heart. Red wine does not only contain alcohol. It also contains antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, heart disease and even lower cholesterol levels. That’s because red wine raises the levels of HDL or good cholesterol in the body and thus protect the arteries from damage wrought by bad cholesterol or LDL.
Of course, this does not mean that those who do not drink alcohol should start the habit of imbibing red wine. Too much alcohol can have a harmful effect on your health, and if you don’t drink, there are other ways to improve the health of your heart. But this does not remove the fact that red wine does help the heart — and for years scientists debated on why it was so effective at improving health. Finally, they have the answer.
According to researchers, the great “healing ingredient” of wine could be flavonoids. Flavonoids, sometimes called bioflavonoids, are found in plants. However, when grapes are processed into wine, the health benefits are magnified. Enzymes are released that help eliminate certain carcinogens, and even inhibit tumors. These also trigger your body’s production of good cholesterol.
Flavonoids are also found in other alcoholic drinks that have been processed from fruits and vegetables. Some studies, for example, show that a glass of beer or any form of liquor can lower your risk for heart disease. Other studies however show that red wine has the the most heart-healthy benefits compared to other kinds of alcohol.
But even without clear-cut findings, pro-red wine researchers cite the so-called French paradox that supports the benefits of red wine. According to the paradox, the French are a people who love good food and most of this delicious dishes are rich in saturated fats. But despite this love for fat-rich foods, the French also have a low incidence of coronary heart disease. Could this be linked to the fact that the French tend to drink their food with wine, rarely beer or vodka on the rocks?
Resveratrol could be considered as a crucial part of red wine that could be a contributing factor in the health benefits of wine. Resveratrol is known to help in preventing damage to blood vessels and in reducing the buildup of bad cholesterol in the body. It is also known to help prevent blood clots.
A majority of research on resveratrol has been conducted on animals. Based on research results, mice that have been given resveratrol may help in protecting the animals from becoming obese and contracting diabetes – strong factors that could contribute to the development of heart disease. But actual human studies are still being conducted and some say that to gain the same effects shown in mice, one would have to drink 100 bottles of wine a day. Despite this, some companies now sell resveratrol supplements.
Aside from flavonoids and resveratrol, another substance found in red wine that may have a positive effect on the body are polyphenols. This substance coats and protects the lining of the blood vessels in the heart. Many studies, including those conducted by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicate that these chemical compounds can also lower risk for other health conditions. “Current evidence strongly supports a contribution of polyphenols to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases, cancers, and osteoporosis and suggests a role in the prevention of neurodegenerative diseases and diabetes mellitus,” said researchers Augustin Scalbert, Ian T. Johnson and Mike Saltmarsh, in the first National Conference on Polyphenols and Health.