Head to Toe Health Benefits of Wine
Wine is basically magic, a cure-any-ill elixir that makes the fountain of youth look like a warm can of Coke—at least that’s what the barrage of news reports, advertising promises and countless online headlines tell you. Whether this onslaught of oenophilia has won you over or solidified your skepticism, the fact is, wine is a boon to your body in several ways, but the benefits are far smaller in scale than we have been led to believe. You already know moderation is key, and that if you don’t eat well, workout, get your sleep and lower stress, no amount of Syrah will save you. Wine’s health-bolstering powers are but a tiny added bonus. To help you understand how a glass or two actually helps, we waded through hundreds of studies and talked to the leading researchers, separating the facts from the false claims. Here’s exactly how wine does your body good.
You already know wine is a crucial component of the French Paradox—the phenomenon of feasting on fare high in saturated fat, yet without high rates of ticker disease. The key to wine’s role, according to researchers, is a compound called quercetin, a blood pressure-lowering flavonoid found in most red wines. And quercetin’s benefits come on fast: A recent Spanish study showed drinking a little red every day lowered blood pressure by several points in just four weeks.
Drink too much and your body can’t absorb calcium and Vitamin D, which are essential for a strong skeleton. However, when Australian researchers tracked adults over 50 years old for two years, they found bone density increased in men who drank wine—but not women. Don’t fret, ladies. A separate study from the University of Oregon found when women who normally had one or two glasses of wine a day stopped imbibing for two weeks, their bone health suffered, increasing the risk of osteoporosis.
Wine increases your good cholesterol (HDL), which devours bad cholesterol (LDL) before it clogs your arteries, lowering your risk of a heart attack. In what is now a landmark study, scientists in Denmark had people drink two glasses of red wine every day for a month and their HDL levels rose by 16 percent.
It’s a myth that alcohol kills brain cells. In fact, a seven-year Norwegian study of 5,033 folks showed those who drank wine at least twice a week scored better than teetotalers on cognitive function tests. Wine may also sharpen your memory (just, you know, not when over-imbibing). British scientists gave mice blancs de noirs Champagne and saw a 200 percent increase in a protein known to boost short-term recall.
If you’re trying to lose (or fend off) a tire around the middle, having red or white wine with dinner may help. Purdue University researchers found even small amounts of piceatannol—a compound in wine that’s chemically nearly identical to the antioxidant resveratrol—slows fat cell growth by 20 percent.
Yes, wine can help fuel romance, but it also boosts the biology behind your sex drive. Researchers at the University of Southern California found regular red wine sippers (even when not drinking) have higher levels of testosterone, which revs the libido in both men and women.
Fact: Boozing to excess will destroy your liver. But, in moderation, red wine can actually protect it, according to Portuguese researchers. The key is the antioxidant resveratrol, which helps fight fat buildup in the organ, a condition that can up the risk of liver failure.
Tannins not only aid good bacteria in your digestive system, they may help prevent colon cancer. When Spanish researchers had people drink a glass of Merlot every day for 20 days, there was a spike in the bacteria that helps bolster the cancer-
fighting powers of antioxidants.
Despite what Dr. Oz says, drinking resveratrol-rich red wine will not guard against sunburn or melanomas. To shield your skin, you need to slather on lotion and sunblock that boast the antioxidant. (Soaking in a tub of Pinot Noir won’t protect you, either.) That being said, the anti-inflammatory properties of phenols and flavonoids found in both red and white wines can bolster collagen, which will help delay wrinkles.
The sulfites warning label on your bottle is there to alert people who are allergic to the stuff. And sulfite sufferers are rare—less than .005% of the population, according to a study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition. If you are allergic, a glass of wine (as well as a long list of fruits and vegetables, from lettuce and tomatoes to asparagus and dried apricots) will spawn acute symptoms like hives, diarrhea or trouble swallowing. The U.S. law requiring the labels was passed in the 1980s, after diners began getting “sick” after eating food preserved with sulfites at salad bars. If you’re not allergic, you have nothing to fear. Sulfites occur naturally in plants, help preserve wine, halt fermentation and are safe to sip.
For years, TV doctors, health magazines and the wine industry have been telling you red wine is good for you, because it’s packed with resveratrol. They’re right. This antioxidant’s power to destroy DNA-damaging free radicals is well documented. But, the buzz surrounding resveratrol—and the fact it’s relatively simple to single out in a laboratory—has long stolen the research spotlight away from studying the health-boosting powers of white wine, a trend that seems to be slowly reversing. Researchers are devoting more energy studying things like caftaric acid, a powerful antioxidant found in white grapes that just may have resveratrol-like powers. Stay tuned, white wine fans.
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- 1The Heart
- 2The Bones
- 4The Brain
- 5The Belly
- 6The Libido
- 7The Liver
- 8The Plumbing
- 9The Skin
- 10Are Sulfites Safe?
- 11It's Not Just Red