Is Red Wine Good for Your Health?

Some experts believe red wine has health benefits but too much is unhealthy. Get the facts on red wine and how it can impact your health.

You may have read that red wine is good for your health -- but don't pop that cork too soon. Before you raise your glass, here are some things you'll need to know.

Health benefits of alcohol

The most widely known benefits of alcohol may be a small increase in HDL (good) cholesterol and reducing blood clotting. Research continues on understanding the potential benefits more clearly. Red wine is thought to have even more benefits because it contains polyphenols and flavonoids. Both of these substances may have additional cardio-protective effects.


A specific antioxidant, called resveratrol, is thought to be especially good for the heart. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes. It's also found in peanuts and some berries. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects and also reduces blood clotting. Researchers believe resveratrol can slow tumor growth in some cancers. They also believe it can help prevent nerve cell damage and death. Studies on resveratrol have not yet been done on humans.

Risks of alcohol

Excessive drinking can damage your liver, pancreas and nerve cells. Studies have shown alcohol increases a woman's chances for breast cancer. Pregnant women should not drink any alcohol due to the potential harm to the baby.

Health problems

People with certain health problems shouldn't drink alcohol. These problems include:

  • High triglycerides
  • Pancreatitis
  • Liver disease
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Heart failure

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), moderate alcohol may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in some people, but more research is needed. The AHA cautions people not to start drinking if they do not already drink alcohol. The evidence is overwhelming that drinking may be unhealthy -- even risky -- for others.

Too much alcohol increases the risk for:

  • High triglycerides
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease and heart attack
  • Certain cancers
  • Accidents
  • Suicide
  • Delivering children with birth defects
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Inflammation of the pancreas
  • Dementia


The AHA warns people with diabetes to be extra careful about alcohol. Any drinking should be done moderately and with a meal. Otherwise, alcohol can lower blood sugar to dangerous levels.

USDA recommendations

If you don't drink, don't start. Consuming alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects depending on several factors such as amount consumed, age and unique characteristics to the person drinking the alcohol. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends moderate alcohol consumption. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. A serving is a 4-ounce glass of wine or a 12-ounce glass of beer. Drinking extra red wine won't give you extra protection. It may do just the opposite and give you new health problems.

Many fruits and vegetables, as well as red grape juice, contain antioxidants. Although red wine may make HDL levels higher for some people, regular exercise can do the same thing. Work in up to 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. Check with your doctor before you start or increase your physical activity level. Other things that may increase your HDL levels include lowering your blood pressure, controlling your weight, getting enough exercise and following a healthy diet.
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