Wine is a fascinating and ancient alcoholic beverage made from grapes. Despite being extremely popular in Europe, wine appears to have originated in China 9000 years ago in the form of a beverage obtained from fermented grapes, honey and rice (Hirst). Similarly to beer, whiskey, vodka, sangria and other alcoholic drinks, wine can have a positive impact on people’s overall health, as long as it is consumed in moderation. As Bachai pointed out, moderate consumption is commonly defined as a drink per day for adult women and up to two drinks per day for adult men.
Over the decades, numerous studies have confirmed that wine plays a key role in reducing the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease by making light drinkers’ hearts healthier. On top of that, wine has been found to promote longevity, to the extent that light drinkers are less likely to die prematurely than non-drinkers (Jaret). From a technical perspective, wine bestows its multiple salutary benefits by dilating blood vessels and improving blood circulation, thus preventing the kind of blood clots that damage the heart. Moderate wine consumption is also associated with higher levels of good cholesterol and lower levels of bad cholesterol. This is because red wine – as well as many other alcoholic beverages – raises HDL cholesterol levels (i.e. the good kind of cholesterol) while preventing LDLs from clogging arteries. Being rich in natural antioxidants, such as resveratrol, wine contributes to strengthening and protecting artery walls, thus keeping moderate consumers younger and healthier. Thanks to its ability to keep arteries open and flexible, resveratrol – which can be found in both white and red wine – plays a crucial role in helping blood reach the brain. As a result, moderate regular drinkers are less likely to develop dementia than nondrinkers and rare drinkers.
A 2006 study aimed at investigating the reasons behind Sardinian and French people’s longer life span revealed that procyanidins – compounds found in red wine – possess remarkable anti-ageing properties that keep blood vessels healthy and promote longevity (Nordqvist). Interestingly, red wine is the only alcoholic beverage that decreases the risk of breast cancer by reducing estrogen levels while boosting testosterone in premenopausal women. Moderate red wine consumption also decreases the risk of developing colon cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer and even oral cancer. As it turns out, the same compounds that lower the risk of heart disease also inhibit the growth of deadly cancer cells. It is believed that the powerful antioxidants found in both white and red wine – even though red wine is richer in polyphenols than white wine – make it easier for the human body to suppress cancer cells by strengthening and boosting its cancer-fighting abilities. Other noteworthy benefits include better bone mineral density (and, therefore, a lower risk of developing osteoporosis), improved libido, erectile dysfunction prevention, common cold prevention, lower risk of gallstones and, last but not least, a lower chance of developing type 2 diabetes. Besides improving our physical health, wine also has a positive impact on our psychological health. In 2013, a team of Spanish researchers found that adults who consume between two and seven glasses of wine (both white and red) per week had a lower risk of being diagnosed with depression than nondrinkers (Nordqvist).
With that being said, excessive wine consumption can have a devastating impact on our physical and psychological health. Drinking too much wine can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, cardiomyopathy and arrhythmia. Being wine – and alcohol in general – rich in triglycerides, excessive wine consumption is also likely to result in significant weight gain, obesity and high blood pressure. Heavy wine consumption has also been found to increase the risk of cirrhosis (a condition that causes healthy tissue in the liver to be replaced with scar tissue), various cancers and congestive heart failure, which occurs when the heart is too weak to pump blood efficiently. Drinking too much wine may also result in drowsiness and sleep deficiency, thus preventing people from getting a good night’s sleep and feeling rested when they wake up in the morning. Other adverse effects include:
Decreased fertility: while the negative impact of alcohol consumption on fetuses are well known, many people underestimate the devastating effect that excessive wine intake can have on men’s fertility. Besides interfering with men’s natural testosterone levels, wine may also result in slow sperm mobility and erectile dysfunction.
Pancreatitis: this is a painful condition that is usually triggered by gallstones. Excessive wine consumption can lead to acute pancreatitis, which is very hard to treat and is likely to result in premature death.
Lectins: wine is produced in such a way to allow lectins – a type of protein – to remain in the final beverage The main problem with lectins is that they are difficult to break down, which leaves them free to attack to and get out of the stomach lining. When they attack other organs, such as the brain, the kidneys and the thyroid, lectins can lead to multiple health problems. While the negative effects of lectins are still being investigated by experts across the world, it seems that constant exposure can result in anaphylactic shock as well as the emergence of a variety of autoimmune diseases. Interestingly, people who are afflicted by allergies and irritable bowel syndrome are more likely to experience the devastating effects of lectins than their healthier counterparts.
In conclusion, wine is a marvelous alcoholic beverage that needs to be consumed in moderation in order to take advantage of its numerous benefits.
- Bachai, Sabrina. 7 Health Benefits of Drinking Alcohol, 10 Jul 2013, http://www.medicaldaily.com/7-health-benefits-drinking-alcohol-247552. Accessed 13 Apr 2017.
- Hirst, Kris K. “Wine and its Origins – The Archaeology and History of Wine Making.” Thought Co., 10 Feb 2017, https://www.thoughtco.com/wine-origins-archaeology-and-history-173240. Accessed 13 Apr 2017.
- Jaret, Peter. “Health Benefits of Wine.” Web MD, 2017, http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/health-benefits-wine#1. Accessed 13 Apr 2017.
- Nordqvist, Christian. “Wine: Health Benefits and Health Risks.” Medical News Today, 7 Apr 2016, http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635.php. Accessed 13 Apr 2017.