There is much debate around the rumoured health benefits of red wine. Aside from just tasting great, there are those who claim it can actually improve the quality of their daily lives.
Of course, many alcohol retailers have made similar claims. You might remember that ‘It’s good for you’ was Guinness’ slogan from 1928 – 1960. So, is there any truth to these assertions, or are ‘health benefits’ simply an excuse for us to drink more than the recommended allowance?
Red wine’s health benefits
While Guinness were possibly grasping at straws, it seems there might be more truth behind the claims of red wine evangelists. Studies from Harvard and the University of Alberta show that darker wines helps resists aging and helps you recover from exercise faster.
Alberta’s 2012 study found that a natural compound present in red wine, some fruits and nuts may enhance exercise performance. The lab study discovered that resveratrol – the antioxidant found in red wines – improved physical performance, heart function and muscle strength in lab models.
While we’re not suggesting you switch your protein shake for a Merlot before hitting the gym, it’s nice to know that when you’re enjoying a glass, there’s a chance you might be doing your skin and muscles a little good too.
In fact, wine’s anti-aging properties have been discussed for over a thousand years, with the health and long lives of Greek monks put down to their consumption of a plant-based diet, olive oil and wine.
The science behind Resveratrol
One chemical seems to link these age-defying properties: resveratrol. Long theorised to have a positive impact on overall health, Harvard Medical School has since proved this old wives’ tale to be true.
‘Resveratrol improves the health of mice on a high-fat diet increases life span’ explains Harvard’s David Sinclair.
What is Resveratrol?
Present in the skins of grapes, blueberries and some nuts, resveratrol is an antioxidant produced by plants to fight environmental hazards. Red grapes contain higher levels of the chemical to protect against sun damage and fungal attacks.
How does it help our health?
Resveratrol protects a cell’s DNA. It neutralises free radicals, preventing them from running riot and causing cell damage. In doing so, it holds some merit in protecting against chronic conditions.
Can it promote weight loss?
Resveratrol binds the insulin receptors of fat cells. In turn, this prevents the growth of new fat, hence the perception that red wine helps you lose weight.
Although the University of Alberta cites increased post-exertional recovery as a benefit of resveratrol, it is not an excuse to avoid exercise entirely.
‘I think Resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but who are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do’, says university researcher, Jason Dyck.
Risk vs reward
- Men and women should drink less than 14 units of alcohol per week.
- It’s best to spread those 14 units out over three days or more.
- Try to include 1 or 2 drink-free days each week.
But does this amount of alcohol allow you to reap the benefits of resveratrol’s magic? Unfortunately not.
‘If you’re drinking red wine to get resveratrol, you would have to drink anywhere from 100 to 1,000 bottles per day’, concluded the University of Alberta.
There are obvious health risks associated with drinking too much or too often – not to mention the potential hangover. While there are some benefits to consuming resveratrol, they’re not life changing, and you could get the same reward from other foods.
With that said, what is life without a little risk? When choosing your wine, it’s worth remembering the darker the wine, the higher its antioxidant content.
So, here’s to red wine. It might not be a miracle cure, but it certainly puts a smile on your face at the end of a long day.