Wine 101- Wine and Health


Wine is a delicious, alcoholic beverage that many people enjoy. There are many different types, brands, and styles of wine. These alcoholic drinks also have health benefits that many people do not know about. There have been a number of studies conducted on both red and white wine that show the positive and negative effects that it can have on the body. It has previously been used as a medicine in the past, and although our world has advanced in technology and medicines, it is still used as a remedy for many different health ailments.

History-Role of Wine in Medicine

Wine is easily said to be the oldest form of man-made medicine because in the past, practitioners of health were normally magicians and priests that would come up with their own way of curing an ailment including the usage of wine. The ancient Greeks were the first to introduce a different approach to medicine, but continued to use wine in their approach. Hippocrates, a physician in Greece, recommended that everyone have a glass of wine for a healthy and well balanced diet. Wine was also used during these times as a disinfectant for many different cuts and abrasions, and used to mix other drugs in for a better tasting concoction. Wine was also given during these times for women in childbirth, people with diarrhea, and those that have lethargy due to pain. Greece was not the only place using wine for these purposes. The ancient Romans were also involved in using the wine in this same manner. The Roman physician named Galen would treat gladiators in Asia Minor using wine as the disinfectant for their wounds. During this time, he treated many different gladiators over four years and only five of those gladiators died. Sixty gladiators died at the hands of the physician before him.

Religion was another big reason to drink wine, and many different religions promoting a glass of wine a day to promote good stomach health and digestion. Islamic religions restricted the use and consumption of alcohol, wine was still used for a lot of health reasons such as digestive health and disinfecting wounds. The Catholic monasteries would use wine for their medical treatments during the Middle Ages. There was even a book printed on the medicinal purposes of wine by a physician, Arnaldus de Villa Nova during the 14th century. It covered everything from sinus problems to dementia. One of the reasons why wine was so popular during these times was because water was not safe to drink. It was used to sterilize water in 1892 during the cholera epidemic in Hamburg. During the 19th and even 20th century, alcoholism was becoming more known and also termed as a disease. This took wines out of drug stores for therapeutic uses, and alcohol, including wine was thought of as a bad thing if it was drunk in large quantities over a long period of time. In the early to mid 20th century, a lot of health advocates put out the risks there were with alcohol consumption such as high blood pressure, liver damage, cancer, infertility, and even strokes or long term brain damage. There were studies shown that babies born with mental retardation after the mother drinks alcohol was something highly seen and deemed as fetal alcohol syndrome. This lead to labels on alcohol packaging. The 21st century is bringing new studies to view the health benefits that wine has.

Moderate Consumption

There are three different categories that can be placed on the wine drinker. There is heavy drinking, binge drinking, and then moderate consumption. This is because these classifications are needed to find the health benefits of wine. The healthy level of consumption of any alcohol varies by individual drinking the alcohol. This is according to their weight, genetics, gender, age, and body stature. The situation that it is being drank in also comes into play, such as if there is going to be food eaten with it or if the individual has any other drugs in their system. A lot of doctors will classify moderate consumption as one 5 ounce glass of wine per day for a woman, and two of these glasses per day for a man.

Wine’s Chemical Composition

Polyphenols such as resveratrol has been one of the most studied chemical within red wines. This is the chemical that plays the key role in any and all health benefits that wine has by serving as the antioxidant that can prevent and rejuvenate cell damage and growth. The negative effects of this chemical are still being studied, but the level of polyphenols in red wine is four times over the equivalent to that in an antibiotic drug.

Resveratrol is found in grape skin, and it is a non flavonoid compound that is phenolic and found in wine. It has many different health benefits. It is part of a grapevines defense mechanism and will respond to any microbial attacks or grape disease. Having a lot of resveratrol can slow and even stop infections from spreading. The climate conditions that the grapes grow in and the type of grapes have a lot to do with the amount of resveratrol the grapes have. The Muscadinia family of grapes has the highest level of resveratrol. Climates with colder and wetter conditions have higher resveratrol levels in their grapes than those grapes in warmer and drier climates. Red wines have higher concentrations of this chemical over white wines. During the maceration period, it gives the wine its color because of the extraction of chemicals from the wine such as resveratrol. The other methods used to make wine such as fermentation and yeast can also influence the amount of resveratrol is in wine. Not only is resveratrol one of the healthy chemicals in wine, but catechin and quercetin as well.

Sip wines slowly to get the full benefit of resveratrol in wine. When wine is in the system is goes straight to the gut and liver, but when sipped slowly and held in the mouth it can reach the blood stream much easier.

White Wine vs. Red Wine

There is no correlation between which wine would be the best for health benefits. Both types of wine have antioxidants and health benefits. The skin from the grapes contain antioxidants that can be used to treat and help major illnesses. The taste between the two types varies however, and this might mean a lot to the avid wine drinker. Although, the most important thing to remember when it comes to drinking any alcohol is that it should be done responsibly and in moderation in order to maintain good health. Studies continue to be conducted to show the correlation between the two types of wines and a person’s health.

Red Wine and Antioxidants

Red wine carries a lot of antioxidants, and provides the drinker with some health benefits when drinking in moderation. Antioxidants and coagulants also come from the way the grapes are stored and grown. This is because the chemicals within the grapes can become higher in those grown in different temperatures. Depending on the climate of where the grapes grow, and the overall wine making strategies that the vineyard goes through, some wines may have more health benefits and antioxidants than others.

Red Wine and Heart Health

Red wine has been shown to have a correlation with better heart health through research from various studies. The consumption of red wine results in antioxidants and anticoagulants going into the body and may play a role to stop blood clots from forming. These clots may form in the arteries of the heart, and can lead to heart failure and heart attacks. By lowering the amount of plaque buildup in the heart, a person would ultimately be lowering their heart disease and condition risks. By clearing out the passages to the heart, there is a higher possibility that the clots and plaque will not build up around the heart over time. Wine should still be consumed in moderation since large amounts of alcohol consumption can lead to health problems.

Wine’s Effect on the Body


The World Health Organization has recently classified alcohol as a group 1 carcinogen. This is because alcohol is a toxin, and it can damage cells over time. Even a moderate amount of alcohol consumption can increase the risk for a variety of cancers that include, but are not limited to stomach cancers, colon, breast, and even esophageal cancer. There has been research on the correlation between cancers and the antioxidant properties within wine. Some of the research has shown that a protective barrier inhibits cancerous growths within cells from the consumption of Resveratrol. Another study showed that those who consumed 1 glass of wine a day had a 56% decrease in risk for developing esophagus cancer. There is still not a conclusive link to drinking wine and preventing cancer or if it has any benefits to the body when consumed in moderation. A 2008 study by the University of Nebraska, has shown that resveratrol in wine may actually have some preventative effects against breast cancer when consumed in moderation. Only low doses were used in this experiment.


People who drink heavily may already be showing signs of bone tissue damage. Over time steady alcohol consumption at high levels can increase the amount of fractures a person may sustain due to the slowing of the regeneration of the bone tissue. Studies done in London at the St Thomas Hospital suggest that moderate wine consumption can actually offer positive benefits to women in particular that are losing bone density and are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Women who consumed one to three glasses a day had increases in bone density over a period of two years during the study. Other factors were noted to also have an increase in bone density such as an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits.

Mental Functions and Dementia

A short term effect of heavy alcohol consumption can be the impairment in mental functions. This can cause changes in behavior and even memory. Being a long term drinker may increase the risk for developing a major disorder that may in turn inhibit any new brain cells from growing. Long term memory loss can become apparent when a person continues to consumer heavy amounts of alcohol over time. Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown in studies to lower the risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The direct relationship between wine and these diseases has not been fully understood or researched but it has been found that small amounts of alcohol can actually stimulate the chemicals to be released that influences brain function, and the ability to have and hold memories.

Cardiovascular System

Heavy drinkers are at increased risk of developing heart disease or other fatal cardiac arrhythmias because excessive alcohol consumption can lead to weakened heart muscles. When wine in particular is consumed moderately, it may reduce the risk of heart diseases by removing the bad cholesterol or LDL from the arteries and preventing any blockages. Blood clots are one of the main causes of heart attacks and pain in the heart due to oxygen failing to get to the heart. Alcohol has anticoagulant properties that will limit the amount of blood clots further decreasing heart risks. These properties only stay in the system for 24 hours.

Digestive System

Wine has been used throughout the years to soothe the stomach from many ailments such as diarrhea. When there is moderate alcohol consumption, this will lessen the amount of stomach ulcers a person can get and might even lower the risks of developing stomach cancer. This is because of the anti bacterial chemicals that wine has. Not only that, but other studies done show that the reduction in gall stones was due to those that had a moderate wine drinking habit, over those that do not drink.


Some studies have found that alcohol consumed at moderate levels with meals will not have a substantial impact on levels in blood sugar for people who do not have diabetes. Having a healthy and moderate consumption of wine may lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes over time. People who already have diabetes should severely limit their alcohol consumption as to not aggravate glucose levels. Drinking alcohol accompanied with a meal is also recommended for individuals already with diabetes.


Anticoagulants and anti oxidants within wine have properties that have been shown to have positive effects in slowing the process of macular degeneration in the eyes. This causes older people to lose their vision as they become older. A study done in America in the 1990’s showed that those that were moderate wine drinkers had less degeneration of the eyes than those that were not.

Management of Weight

A lot of dieters believe that wine can have a positive effect on weight loss when it comes to consuming a glass of wine with food. It is said that the appetite can be decreased because of the consumption of wine allowing the person to eat smaller meals. A serving size of wine has more calories compared to other drinks. There has also been studies that suggest that alcohol’s calories are processed differently in our bodies than other foods and beverages.

Social and Psychological

There was a Danish study done to find the effects that alcohol has on the mind, and it was broken down into different groups. Those that drink beer, those that drink wine, and those that do not drink at all. They were then tested on different levels for personality, IQ, socioeconomic status, education, and psychiatric symptoms. The results showed that both men and women that drink wine had a higher parental social status, education, and higher IQs than the others that were tested. The difference was around 18 points more for wine drinkers than others. Wine drinkers performed at optimal levels for personality, psychological function, and even other health related behaviors than the others. According to this study the association between wine drinking habits with social and psychological characteristics may actually have profound health benefits.

The Wine Controversy

In London during a 2008 study, researchers found that red wine contains high levels of metals that are toxic to the body. Some of the metals found within the wine are also found in other beverages, but wine tested higher than the rest. One of the highest amount of metals found was vanadium. A single glass of wine was shown to not lead to metal poisoning, but heavy consumption may put an individual at risk. The findings however, sparked a controversy because of the way the study was conducted. This is because of where the study was conducted, and how it was compared to other forms of metals in other drinks. Those that are responsible for conducting metal based contamination in food and drinks did not detect any increased risk of drinking wine. The levels that were reported from the study were the same as the permitted levels that are for drinking water in reservoirs. Wine now has to be labeled to show if there are metals within the wine agent so consumers may beware. The way the wine is produced also plays a large part in the metals that may be contained in it.

Sulfites in Wine

Sulfites are a preservative found in fruits that are used mostly in dried fruits and wine. It is something that is produced by the body as well each and every day. Consuming these sulfites does not harm the body unless a person has a deficiency to the enzyme. People with this type of condition should stay away from the sulfites in dried fruits and in wine. Sulfites have no connection to inducing headaches, and some sensitive to the sulfites may show a type of reactions due to their deficiency condition. Most wines contain sulfites inside them and are required to contain a label showing consumers that they contain sulfites.

Wine and Pregnancy

There is a lot of controversy over whether or not wine during pregnancy is safe. There have been a number of studies conducted, and each of which have yielded different results. Some medical experts believe that drinking one glass of wine a night would have no harmful effects on the unborn child, while other medical experts believe that drinking any amount of alcohol would have a negative effect on an unborn child. The debate is constantly going, and whether or not to drink while pregnant is a controversial issue to this day.

Wine Studies

There are a number of studies being done to show the effects that wine has on a person’s health. Some of the benefits have been proven to show significant results for those people that drink wine but only in moderation.

The chemical makeup, sulfites, antioxidants, and metals within wines are also being thoroughly looked into. Medical experts out there want to know how useful wine can be in medicinal purposes and even possibly preventing cancer. Only time will tell if wine is truly a health benefit if consumed in moderation for anyone of any medical background.

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