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Good News About Red Wine

July 13, 2011 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

What we choose to focus on, whether consciously or subconsciously, has a dramatic influence on our perceived quality of life. I’m frequently reminded of this truism when discussing diet and lifestyle considerations with clients, family and friends. From an evidence-based standpoint, certain activities and foods tend to promote health while others detract from it. In order to help someone achieve greater wellness, items need to be added to the “health promoting” column and subtracted from the “health risk” side. When I explain this straightforward concept, some view my recommended changes as difficult or restrictive. Others see the upside of my proposition: they can eat many foods they previously thought of as forbidden and they’ll feel much better for it. The information I share and the suggestions I make are the same. However, the way they’re interpreted makes all the difference in the world.

I have a glass of biodynamic or organic red wine almost on a daily basis. Some of my colleagues in the alternative and complementary medical community believe that I’m harming myself by doing so. If you were to ask Dr. Barry Sears, Dr. Joseph Mercola or Dr. Wayne Dyer, they’d all tell you so. In general, those who are opposed to the use of alcohol will cite research showing that this naturally occurring compound can be harmful to the brain and liver. But red wine isn’t just any old form of alcohol.

An important concept to embrace when shifting to a more natural, whole food diet is that you can literally analyze any food to death. If I tried hard enough, I could provide information that would make you question whether the healthiest of foods, think broccoli, raspberries and spinach, should be regular components of your diet. Yes, it is possible to over think your diet. Red wine provides a perfect illustration of this principle.

Before I go on, I want to make it clear that I’m not suggesting that non-wine drinkers go down to their local liquor store and stock up on cases of Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. Wine is not an essential part of any healthy diet. And clearly there are cases in which any form of alcohol is contraindicated due to addiction or medical interactions. Rather, the following information is simply intended to illustrate that a moderate intake of red wine can be health promoting for a significant percentage of the adult population at large.

Good News Item #1 – A recent study evaluated the effects of drinking red wine containing 40 grams of alcohol: a) on an empty stomach – after a 6 hour fast; b) 45 minutes after eating a meal. Blood sugar and insulin levels were subsequently measured over a 135 minute period after ingesting the red wine. In the fasting experiment, a group of 20 nondiabetic young men, exhibited a decrease in insulin and no change in blood sugar. In the post-meal experiment, no change was noted in insulin, but there was a significant decline in blood sugar levels. The latter finding, which has greater use in a real world setting, indicates that including red wine with meals may moderate unhealthy post-meal blood sugar spikes. (1)

Good News Item #2 – An occasional glass of red wine may provide some health advantages, such as those described above. However, the February 2011 issue of The American Journal of Hypertension reports that longer term intake of red wine may be necessary to derive some of its renowned cardiovascular benefits. A study involving 18 healthy young women determined that red wine did not improve blood flow after one glass. But drinking one glass of red wine daily over a 3 week period did, in fact, produce a “change in smooth muscle sensitivity” which was reflected in the participants forearm blood flow response. (2)

Good News Item #3 – Proof positive that not all alcohol is created equal can be found in an analysis of the recent North Carolina Colon Cancer Study. In it, a total of 1,033 patients with colorectal cancer and 1,011 control patients were used to examine the relationship between alcohol consumption and colorectal malignancies. The results state, “In this study, moderate alcohol (especially wine) was inversely associated with distal colorectal cancer”. The reduction in risk (odds ratio) was deemed approximately 31% in the wine users. (3)

Good News Item #4 – Age related bone loss isn’t just a concern for older women. Senior men are also at risk for fractures, osteopenia and osteoporosis. The April 2011 edition of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition reveals that red wine may help to retain bone density in aging males. Several important details emerged from this review that included 862 senior men and women: a) red wine consumption was associated with greater lumbar spine density in men; b) hard liquor or “spirits” were linked to poorer bone density in the same lumbar region; c) alcohol use of any kind was not connected to the likelihood of falls and fractures. It’s interesting to note that wine did not affect bone density in women, but beer consumption did. The relationship between beer phytochemicals and female bone health was previously covered in a column I wrote entitled, Beer and Menopause. (4)

Good News Item #5 – It’s becoming more and more clear that cholesterol levels alone aren’t a primary risk factor for heart disease. However, oxidized cholesterol obtained from dietary sources is largely believed to contribute to atherosclerotic lesions in arteries. A publication appearing in the February 2011 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition reports that having red wine along with a meal rich in oxidisable lipids (a double cheeseburger) offers protection against the absorption of these harmful substances. Drinking water with the same meal lead to an expected increase in two cholesterol oxidation products (7-β-hydroxycholesterol and 7-ketocholesterol) in 12 healthy adults taking part in the trial. This provides a profound basis to recommend a glass of red wine with meals of varying quality. (5)

Antioxidants in Red Wine May Protect the Brain In Numerous Ways

Source: Mol Neurobiol. 2010 June; 41(2-3): 375–383. (link)

What do you if you’re given a cheap bottle of wine that isn’t to your liking? Before you throw it out or pawn it off on some unsuspecting colleague or neighbor, try using it as a marinade instead. The addition of red wine to beef and chicken marinades not only reduces the levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria, but also prevents oxidation/spoilage and reduces the levels of carcinogenic substances (heterocyclic aromatic amines) created during the cooking process. What’s more, it may taste a whole lot better as a marinade than by the glass. (6,7,8)

In order to derive the greatest benefits from red wine, opt for dry varieties including Malbecs, Pinot Noirs or Syrahs. Avoid sweet reds such as port wine. The latter do not possess the same antioxidant activity (as dry wines) even though they contain similar levels of phytochemicals. Also, make sure to include plenty of omega 3 fats in your diet. Red wine appears to work synergistically with fish to dramatically increase plasma levels of omega 3 fatty acids. Finally, I always try to find biodynamic or organic red wines. Organic grapes have been found to contain higher levels of polyphenols and resveratrol, both of which are intrinsically tied to many of the healthful properties ascribed to red wine. Cheers! (9,10,11,12,13)

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!


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Posted in Diabetes, Food and Drink, Heart Health

15 Comments & Updates to “Good News About Red Wine”

  1. Meg Says:

    I am a big wino…red wine to be specific. I am also vegan and attempting raw. I found out yesterday that wine is raw but not necessarily vegan. There are only certain brands that don’t use animal by products in their wine production. So, now I am on the hunt. Any suggestions?

  2. JP Says:

    Hiya, Meg.

    One brand that’s widely available (at least here in California) is Frey Vineyards:


    I haven’t specifically searched, but I suspect you’ll find many other examples (of vegan wine) at some of your larger/local health food stores. The vegan market is pretty substantial and growing. Wine producers are becoming increasingly aware of this.

    Be well!


  3. Iggy Dalrymple Says:

    Don’t laugh but I read this while sipping cheap Carlo Rossi jug burgundy.

  4. JP Says:

    Laugh? If I lived closer, I’d join you! 🙂

    We try to find the least expensive organic options available. They’re not as cheap as CR but a lot less expensive than most. I think the bottle of organic Tempranillo on our kitchen counter cost $5.99.

    Be well!


  5. liverock Says:

    Red wine could be the only real source of resveratrol when the FDA ban the supplement. Another good excuse for stocking up.



  6. JP Says:

    *If* that happens, I suspect more expensive, prescriptive versions (of resveratrol) will become available … for a higher cost.

    Lots of coverage about this can be found on this trade site – from various perspectives: http://www.nutraingredients-usa.com/

    Let’s all raise a glass in protest! 🙂

    Be well!


  7. Candice Says:

    Costco often has a great organic red wine called Foral Uncastellum – (pronounced Oon-Cas-Tay-Yoom according to Snooth) Last time we saw it we bought a whole case.

  8. JP Says:

    Thanks for that tip, Candice. I’ll look out for it the next time we visit Costco.

    Be well!


  9. JP Says:

    Update: Organic, no-sulfite added red wines are higher in antioxidants …


    Food Chem. 2015 Jul 15;179:336-42.

    Polyphenols content, phenolics profile and antioxidant activity of organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition in comparison to conventional red wines.

    Wine exerts beneficial effects on human health when it is drunk with moderation. Nevertheless, wine may also contain components negatively affecting human health. Among these, sulfites may induce adverse effects after ingestion. We examined total polyphenols and flavonoids content, phenolics profile and antioxidant activity of eight organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition in comparison to those of eight conventional red wines. Polyphenols and flavonoids content were slightly higher in organic wines in respect to conventional wines, however differences did not reach statistical significance. The phenolic acids profile was quite similar in both groups of wines. Antioxidant activity was higher in organic wines compared to conventional wines, although differences were not statistically significant. Our results indicate that organic red wines produced without sulfur dioxide/sulfites addition are comparable to conventional red wines with regard to the total polyphenols and flavonoids content, the phenolics profile and the antioxidant activity.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update 06/30/15:


    Mediators Inflamm. 2015;2015:317348.

    Changes in LDL Oxidative Status and Oxidative and Inflammatory Gene Expression after Red Wine Intake in Healthy People: A Randomized Trial.

    Postprandial oxidative stress is characterized by an increased susceptibility of the organism towards oxidative damage after consumption of a meal rich in lipids and/or carbohydrates. Micronutrients modulate immune system and exert a protective action by reducing low density lipoproteins (LDL) oxidation via induction of antioxidant enzymes. We evaluated the gene expression of oxidative stress (HOSp), inflammasome (HIp), and human drug metabolism pathways (HDM) and ox-LDL level at baseline and after the intake of red wine naturally enriched with resveratrol (NPVRW), in association with or without a McDonald’s meal (McDM). The ox-LDL levels significantly increase comparing baseline (B) versus McDM and decreased comparing McDM versus McDM + NPVRW (P ≤ 0.05). Percentages of significant genes expressed after each nutritional intervention were the following: (1) B versus McDM, 2.88% HOSp, 2.40% of HIp, and 3.37% of HDMp; (2) B versus McDM + NPVRW, 1.44% of HOSp, 4.81% of HIp, and 0.96% of HDMp; (3) McDM versus McDM + NPVRW, 2.40% of HOSp, 2.40% of HIp, and 5.77% of HDMp; (4) B versus NPVRW, 4.80% HOSp, 3.85% HIp, and 3.85% HDMp. NPVRW intake reduced postprandial ox-LDL and the expression of inflammation and oxidative stress related genes. Chronic studies on larger population are necessary before definitive conclusions.

    Be well!


  11. JP Says:

    Update 07/09/15:


    Br J Nutr. 2015 Apr;113 Suppl 2:S121-30.

    Moderate red wine consumption is associated with a lower prevalence of the metabolic syndrome in the PREDIMED population.

    Previous studies on the association between alcohol intake and the development of the metabolic syndrome (MetS) have yielded inconsistent results. Besides, few studies have analysed the effects of red wine (RW) consumption on the prevalence of the MetS and its components. As moderate RW drinkers have a better lipid profile and lower incidence rates of diabetes, hypertension and abdominal obesity, all components of the MetS, it was hypothesised that moderate RW consumption could be associated with a lower prevalence of the MetS. In the present cross-sectional study of 5801 elderly participants at a high cardiovascular risk included in the PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) study, 3897 fulfilled the criteria of the MetS at baseline. RW intake was recorded using a validated 137-item FFQ. Multiple logistic regression analysis was carried out to estimate the association between RW intake and the prevalence of the MetS. Compared with non-drinkers, moderate RW drinkers ( ≥ 1 drink/d) were found to have a reduced risk of prevalent MetS (OR 0·56, 95 % CI 0·45, 0·68; P< 0·001), a lower risk of having an abnormal waist circumference (OR 0·59, 95 % CI 0·46, 0·77; P< 0·001), low HDL-cholesterol concentrations (OR 0·42, 95 % CI 0·32, 0·53; P< 0·001), high blood pressure (OR 0·28, 95 % CI 0·17, 0·45; P< 0·001) and high fasting plasma glucose concentrations (OR 0·67, 95 % CI 0·54, 0·82; P< 0·001) after adjusting for several confounders. This association was found to be stronger in female participants, in participants aged < 70 years and in participants who were former or current smokers. No significant association was found between RW intake ( ≥ 1 drink/d) and TAG concentrations. In conclusion, moderate RW consumption is associated with a lower prevalence of the MetS in an elderly Mediterranean population at a high cardiovascular risk. Be well! JP

  12. JP Says:

    Updated 08/28/15:


    J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2015 Aug 22.

    Patterns of Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Frailty in Community-dwelling Older Adults.

    BACKGROUND: Consumption of moderate-to-heavy amounts of alcohol has been associated with lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Although both diseases are main causes of the frailty syndrome, no previous study has assessed the association between alcohol-drinking patterns and risk of frailty in older adults.

    METHODS: A prospective cohort study of 2,086 community-dwelling individuals aged 60 and older, recruited in 2008-2010, and followed through 2012, was carried out. Drinking patterns were self-reported at baseline. Moderate drinking was defined as alcohol intake less than 40g/day for men and less than 24g/day for women. A Mediterranean drinking pattern was defined as moderate alcohol intake, with wine preference (≥80% of alcohol proceeds from wine) and drinking only with meals. Study participants were followed through 2012 to ascertain incident frailty, defined as ≥2 of the following 4 Fried criteria: exhaustion, muscle weakness, low physical activity, and slow walking speed. Analyses were performed with logistic regression and adjusted for the main confounders.

    RESULTS: After a mean follow-up of 3.3 (SD = 0.6) years, 292 participants with incident frailty were identified. Compared with nondrinkers, the odds ratio and its 95% confidence interval of frailty was 0.90 (0.65-1.25) for moderate drinkers. The corresponding results were 0.74 (0.48-1.16) for wine versus other beverage preference and 0.53 (0.31-0.92) for drinking only with meals versus only outside meals. Finally, compared with nondrinkers, the odds ratio (95% confidence interval) of frailty was 0.68 (0.47-0.99) for those adhering to the Mediterranean drinking pattern.

    CONCLUSIONS: Certain drinking patterns, in particular drinking only with meals and the Mediterranean drinking pattern, are associated with a lower risk of frailty in older adults.

    Be well!


  13. JP Says:

    Updated 09/17/15:


    Rev Clin Esp. 2015 Aug 18.

    Red wine intake but not other alcoholic beverages increases total antioxidant capacity and improves pro-inflammatory profile after an oral fat diet in healthy volunteers.

    INTRODUCTION: Different alcoholic beverages exert different effects on inflammation and oxidative stress but these results are controversial and scanty in some aspects. We analyze the effect of different alcoholic beverages after a fat-enriched diet on lipid profile, inflammatory factors and oxidative stress in healthy people in a controlled environment.

    METHODS: We have performed a cross-over design in five different weeks. Sixteen healthy volunteers have received the same oral fat-enriched diet (1486kcal/m2) and a daily total amount of 16g/m2 of alcohol, of different beverages (red wine, vodka, brandy or rum) and equivalent caloric intakes as sugar with water in the control group. We have measured the levels of serum lipids, high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), interleukin 6 (IL-6), soluble phospholipase A2 (sPLA2), lipid peroxidation (LPO) and total antioxidant capacity (TAC).

    RESULTS: Red wine intake was associated with decreased of mean concentrations of hsCRP, TNFα and IL-6 induced by fat-enriched diet (p<0.05); nevertheless, sPLA2 concentrations were not significantly modified. After a fat-enriched diet added with red wine, TAC increased as compared to the same diet supplemented with rum, brandy, vodka or the control (water with sugar) (p<0.05).

    CONCLUSIONS: Moderate red wine intake, but not other alcoholic beverages, decreased pro-inflammatory factors and increased total antioxidant capacity despite a fat-enriched diet intake in healthy young volunteers.

    Be well!


  14. JP Says:

    Updated 10/05/16:


    Public Health Nutr. 2016 Oct 3:1-7.

    Effects of initiating moderate wine intake on abdominal adipose tissue in adults with type 2 diabetes: a 2-year randomized controlled trial.

    OBJECTIVE: To generate evidence-based conclusions about the effect of wine consumption on weight gain and abdominal fat accumulation and distribution in patients with type 2 diabetes.

    DESIGN: In the 2-year randomized controlled CASCADE (CArdiovaSCulAr Diabetes & Ethanol) trial, patients following a Mediterranean diet were randomly assigned to drink 150 ml of mineral water, white wine or red wine with dinner for 2 years. Visceral adiposity and abdominal fat distribution were measured in a subgroup of sixty-five participants, using abdominal MRI.

    SETTING: Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Soroka-Medical Center and the Nuclear Research Center Negev, Israel.

    SUBJECTS: Alcohol-abstaining adults with well-controlled type 2 diabetes.

    RESULTS: Forty-eight participants (red wine, n 27; mineral water, n 21) who completed a second MRI measurement were included in the 2-year analysis. Similar weight losses (sd) were observed: red wine 1·3 (3·9) kg; water 1·0 (4·2) kg (P=0·8 between groups). Changes (95 % CI) in abdominal adipose-tissue distribution were similar: red wine, visceral adipose tissue (VAT) -3·0 (-8·0, 2·0) %, deep subcutaneous adipose tissue (DSAT) +5·2 (-1·1, 11·6) %, superficial subcutaneous adipose tissue (SSAT) -1·9 (-5·0, 1·2) %; water, VAT -3·2 (-8·9, 2·5) %, DSAT +2·9 (-2·8, 8·6) %, SSAT -0·15 (-3·3, 2·9) %. No changes in antidiabetic medication and no substantial changes in energy intake (+126 (sd 2889) kJ/d (+30·2 (sd 690) kcal/d), P=0·8) were recorded. A 2-year decrease in glycated Hb (β=0·28, P=0·05) was associated with a decrease in VAT.

    CONCLUSIONS: Moderate wine consumption, as part of a Mediterranean diet, in persons with controlled diabetes did not promote weight gain or abdominal adiposity.

    Be well!


  15. JP Says:

    Updated 03/09/19:


    Nutr Res. 2019 Mar;63:42-50.

    Wine and beer within a moderate alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of HDL-c and adiponectin.

    The scientific evidence available on the association between moderate alcohol intake and levels of blood cardiometabolic markers is still inconsistent and difficult to interpret for future disease prevention. However, we hypothesize that moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with lower levels of inflammation markers and higher levels of protective cardiometabolic markers. Thus, this work aimed to examine the associations of moderate alcohol intake and the type of alcoholic beverage with metabolic and inflammatory biomarkers. An observational, cross-sectional study including 143 apparently healthy adults 55 years of age and older was performed. Interviewer-administered questionnaires were used to collect information on alcoholic beverage intake frequency, food frequency, physical activity, socioeconomic status, diseases and medications, and other health-related habits. Three groups were established prior to recruitment: (1) abstainers and occasional consumers (ABS, n = 54); (2) beer consumers (BEER ≥80% of total alcohol intake; n = 40), and (3) mixed beverage consumers (MIXED; n = 49). Univariate analysis of variance models, adjusted for confounding factors and covariables, were performed. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-c) and sP-selectin were significantly higher in the MIXED group than in the ABS group, and adiponectin was higher in the MIXED group compared to the BEER group. All alcohol consumers also had higher mean platelet volume values compared to ABS. In linear regression analyses, HDL-c, sP-selectin, and adiponectin were positively associated with wine intake (g/d) (P < .001, P = .014, and P = .017, respectively); and mean platelet volume, with beer intake (P = .017). In conclusion, this cross-sectional study showed that moderate alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of HDL-c and adiponectin compared to those in abstainers, which are mainly explained by wine intake.

    Be well!


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