WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
We’ve all heard that red wine is heart healthy, but the science behind these claims is not fully understood. It’s possible that a compound called resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes, may be the reason behind red wine’s hearty healthy status.1
WHAT WE KNOW
Resveratrol is a compound in the polyphenol family. Polyphenols are various types of abundant micronutrients in our diet.2 Fruits and tea, red wine and coffee are the main sources of polyphenols, but vegetables, legumes and cereals are also good sources. Bioavailability, or the body’s availability to absorb nutrients in a food, varies greatly depending upon the source and type of polyphenol.2 Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes, and because grapes are fermented for longer to produce red wine, there is more resveratrol in red wine than white wine.
Increasing evidence shows that polyphenols likely protect against degenerative diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol helps the heart by increasing levels of high-density lipoprotein (“good cholesterol”), which protect against cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels. Removing circulating low-density lipoprotein (“bad cholesterol”) from the blood vessels helps to prevent fatal blood clots that cause heart disease. Additionally, alcohol helps to protect the lining (endothelium) of the blood vessels in the heart. Because red wine contains higher levels of resveratrol than other types of alcohol, the potential benefits on heart health are higher.
WHAT THIS MEANS
While some research has shown red wine benefits heart health, other studies have shown no benefit. More research must be done to better understand the connection between resveratrol and heart health in those who consume red wine. Through eating red grapes, blueberries, cranberries and peanuts and drinking purple grape juice, one can incorporate resveratrol into the diet without adding alcohol.
It’s important to note that while studies have shown that those who drink alcohol in moderate amounts have lower risk of heart disease, one should not begin consuming alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Individuals who are pregnant, have a personal or family history of alcoholism, have certain heart, liver or pancreas diseases or are taking certain medications should avoid alcohol completely. While red wine consumption holds promise for promoting heart health, drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of liver and pancreas diseases, heart failure, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, stroke, accidents, violence and suicide as well as weight gain and obesity.
Red wine consumption in moderation is safe and healthy for adults who are not pregnant, at risk of alcohol abuse, experiencing heart, liver or pancreas disease or taking medications that would negatively interact with alcohol. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as:
- Up to one drink a day for women of all ages.
- Up to one drink a day for men older than age 65.
- Up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.
In addition to red wine and several foods, resveratrol supplements are also available.3 Nonetheless, it is generally best to get nutrients from whole foods because they contain many other key nutrients that cannot be duplicated in a single pill. Heart-healthy polyphenols are abundant in fruits and vegetables and it’s best to eat a balanced, colorful diet to promote heart health. Regular physical activity is also essential in promoting and maintaining heart health.
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