Wine has been used as a form of medication for thousands of years. Whether for cleaning wounds and water or as an alleged cure for multiple diseases: People always believed in the healing power of the spirituous grape juice. Monasteries claimed that their monks lived much longer because they drank high-quality vino on a regular basis.

Recently, it is a common belief that small regular amounts of wine will have various positive health effects such as the prevention of heart diseases, cancer or strokes. Citizens of those parts of Europe with a distinct vinic culture have potentially longer lifes (the so-called French paradox).
At the same time, many claim that wine induces the exact opposite effects. There is a lot of confusion since even national health organizations have claimed very different recommendations concerning its health impacts. While it seems to have some beneficial effects, it definitely contains a dangerous toxic substance which potentially damages cells: Alcohol.

Possible benefits

It is true that drinking wine while eating a meal kills bacteria responsible for food infections. Studies show that people who relish it on a regular basis are less likely to suffer from depression[1]. Additionally, they also perform better on intelligence tests than beer drinkers. The resveratrol in the skins of grapes causes an anti-aging effect and kills damaged cells which can lead to cancer. However, the same substance can be found in nuts, cranberries and other food[1].

Coincidence or correlation?

Wine also seems to be good both for blood vessels as well as for the prevention of different kinds of cancer and brain damages such as dementia or strokes[1]. Different studies imply that people who often drink small amounts are less likely to suffer from these problems. However, it is questionable whether most of these effects are caused by the consumption itself: Wine drinkers tend to lead overall healthier lifestyles.

Red vs. white

red wine vs. white wine

Red wine has stronger potential health benefits than its white counterpart since it contains a higher amount of polyphenol, an anti-inflammatory ingredient potentially preventing cancer[2].
Nevertheless, people with a histamine intolerance will have problems with red wine (which contains a much higher percentage of histamine).
Also, white wine is said to have a benefit for the lung function while red wine has no such effect after all[3].

How much wine should you drink?

It is noteworthy that all the advices concerning benefits of wine refer to moderate consumption.
Until recently, the consensus was that it is unhealthy to surpass a maximum of 20 to 30 ml of pure alcohol on one day[4].
A standard-sized glass of red wine already contains slightly more than 20 ml!
Newer studies show that even drinking a small amount of alcohol increases the cancer risk. Medics assume that there is no safe level below which alcohol is healthwise unproblematic[5].
It is also highly recommended not to drink alcohol at all for at least two days a week to allow the liver to recover.
Since young people have a much lower risk of getting a heart disease, the proclaimed positive effects of wine are mainly valid for people older than 40.

bottle of wine

Negative consequences

In conclusion, the potential health benefits of regular wine consumption are questionable. However, drinking more than the recommended amount definitely results in a negative effect. The resveratrol responsible for the wine’s anti-aging process makes cells age faster when consumed in high doses.
Wine causes notorious headaches because of its high amount of histamines and tyramines. Additionally, it makes the body dehydrate faster than other alcoholic drinks and is hence responsible for more intense hangovers.

Recently, the consensus among researchers is that wine consumption has more negative than positive consequences. You can achieve much stronger health benefits through a healthy lifestyle, regular exercise, not smoking and an attentive nutrition[5].
And you won’t even get a hangover! 😉

[1] Medical News Today: “Wine: Health Benefits and Health Risks“, by Christian Nordqvist
[2] BBC Good Food: “Is wine good for you?
[3] Medical News Today: “Moderate Wine Consumption May Improve Lung Function
[4] NHS: “Alcohol units
[5] The Telegraph: “Red wine is bad for you, say experts“, by Nicola Harley