Ellingson: Moderate consumption of red wine can be beneficial


Opinion: Ellingson 3/11

Caitlin Ellingson

While drinking alcohol in general may not be the best thing for your body, drinking in moderation might have its perks over time. Research has found that there might be a link between consuming alcohol and having a healthy heart, as well as other health benefits.

The main source of these benefits comes from a chemical called resveratrol found in red grape skins, so red wine in particular has gotten a lot of attention as being a “heart-healthy drink.” White wine also contains resveratrol, but the grapes are not fermented as long as they are for red wine.

Resveratrol was discovered in red wine in the 1990s, and scientists have been studying the chemical ever since. They think it might explain why the French have a relatively low death rate from heart disease compared to Americans, even though they consume a lot of saturated fat in their diets. This is also known as the “French paradox.” With the testing done so far, various organisms have benefitted from it, but the effects on humans are not entirely conclusive.

So how does it affect your heart?

Resveratrol is thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that might help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart, prevent blood clots and lower the risk of diabetes by preventing fat accumulation and reduce insulin resistance.

It can also help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing levels of “bad cholesterol” and promoting “good” cholesterol that protects against artery damage. “Good” cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL) that can essentially protect a person against heart attacks because it carries it to the liver effectively. “Bad” cholesterol is carried by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) that can build up in arteries and over time can create an accumulation of plaque, which can block arteries and result in a heart attack or stroke.

Resveratrol is also used in the prevention and therapy of various kinds of cancer because it’s believed to slow the spread of cancerous cells and start the process of cancer cell death. Research is also being done on the possible link to protecting nerve cells in Alzheimer’s patients.

Other conceivable benefits from resveratrol include increased overall longevity and lower risks of having a blood-clot related stroke, cataracts, and even brain decline.

Supplements have been created and put on the market, claiming that it will help people lose weight and even increase your lifespan. However, they are mostly a waste of money to buy. Most dosages on the labels are far lower than the amount that research has found to be beneficial, so it doesn’t really do anything for your body.

If you’re not a big wine drinker and still want to get some resveratrol into your system, you can also find the chemical in blueberries, bilberries, cranberries, grape juice, cocoa and peanuts.

At present time, the research is mostly indecisive but it does show strong links to the aforementioned issues to humans and other organisms. Some researchers say that red wine might not be any more beneficial than drinking beer or liquor. Others say that it’s a much better alternative because of the fermented red grapes and higher levels of resveratrol it contains.

It’s important to define the term “moderation” when it comes to consuming alcohol. For many college students, that word simply means to keep drinking until you have a good buzz going. Others might think moderation means drinking infrequently and getting completely smashed every once in a while. Regardless of your definition, for the purposes of drinking for your health moderation means drinking approximately one five-ounce glass of wine each day for women, or two glasses a day for men (depending on your weight).

Drinking wine is mainly beneficial if the individual is living a healthy lifestyle as well, so eating a nutritious diet and exercising are important. Keep in mind that alcohol is full of empty calories, so if you are not doing any physical activity it can lead to weight gain and have other negative impacts if you drink too much.

If your family has a history of heart disease or other heart issues, you might consider drinking a glass of wine every so often. It might reduce your risk of heart problems when you are older.


Caitlin Ellingson is a senior in journalism and mass communication and environmental studies from Milo, Iowa.