On Your Health

Check back to the INTEGRIS On Your Health blog for the latest health and wellness news for all Oklahomans.

Is Wine Good for Your Heart?

Wine is beloved by people across the globe. Wine brings pleasure not only to your taste buds but to your sense of sight, smell and touch. Throughout history, wine has served as a source of inspiration for philosophers, artists, scientists, writers and poets. As famed winemaker Luis Fernando Olaverri is thought to have once observed, “Wine is the only artwork you can drink.”

But is wine healthy? Many wine drinkers have heard that red wine, in particular, can provide heart-health benefits. However, some experts argue no amount of alcohol consumption is healthy. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, the antioxidants in red wine may help reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Moderation seems to be the key to its health benefits. And if you aren’t a drinker, don’t worry. Doctors don't recommend that you start drinking alcohol for heart benefits, especially since too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.

Dr. Terrie Gibson, an interventional cardiologist with INTEGRIS Health, explores the idea that a little red wine may be good for the heart.

Can red wine be healthy?

When it comes to health benefits, red wine surpasses white wine because there are more antioxidants, called polyphenols, in red wine. Resveratrol has become the star polyphenol when it comes to heart health. Resveratrol is found in the skin of the grape.

“It may be resveratrol that provides cardiovascular benefits,” says Dr. Gibson. “It’s thought that resveratrol can help protect the lining of blood vessels.” Besides strengthening blood vessels, resveratrol may reduce LDL “bad” cholesterol and prevent blood clots. However, the research is mixed. Some studies have found no real benefit from resveratrol in preventing heart disease.

“There is debate about the cardioprotective effect of resveratrol,” Dr. Gibson says. “Some research has shown that in order to obtain a benefit, 2000 mg or more of resveratrol needs to be consumed per day. To compare, supplements contain 250 to 500 mg, while red wine contains 12.41 mg, which means you would have to drink 40 liters of wine a day just to get 500 mg.”

And don’t forget, resveratrol can also be found in sources other than wine. Simply eating grapes or the skin on grapes gives your body the antioxidant. Red and purple grape juices also contain resveratrol and could have some of the same heart-healthy benefits as a glass of red wine.

The alcohol dilemma

While red wine contains antioxidants, some health experts warn the damage caused by any alcohol could outweigh the benefits and suggest no amount of alcohol is safe.

Doctors are seeing more patients and younger patients with symptoms of acute liver disease related to alcohol consumption. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse released a study in January that showed the number of alcohol-related deaths per year doubled between 1999 and 2017.

“Wine is not recommended for everyone. Those who do not drink should not start drinking for cardiovascular benefits,” says Dr. Gibson. In addition, “Wine is definitely not good for your heart if you drink too much. Generally, more than one five-ounce glass a day for women or two five-ounce glasses for men is too much.”

She continues, “If red wine does confer cardiovascular benefits, it will only work when ingested in moderation on a regular basis over time, and most importantly, it must be in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a diet of whole foods with a variety of fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish, with limited red meat and processed food.”

Drinking wine in excess can create health problems, especially in those who do not live a healthy lifestyle. Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol can lead to liver disease, cancer, diabetes, heart failure and more.

If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, moderation means:

  • Up to one drink a day for women of all ages.
  • Up to one drink a day for men older than age 65.
  • Up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

“Don’t save a week’s worth of drinks to ingest in just one day,” says Dr. Gibson. “It’s one drink daily for women and two drinks for men.”

Finally, “If you do choose to drink wine in moderation, make sure it doesn’t interact with any medication you are taking,” Dr. Gibson says.

Cooking with wine

Another way to get the benefits of resveratrol is to consume it as food. Here, Dr. Gibson shares one of her favorite “wine” recipes.

Chicken Breast with Fresh Mozzarella

(From Wine Lovers Healthy Weight Loss Plan)

If you have questions about the benefits and risks of alcohol, talk to your INTEGRIS doctor about specific recommendations for you.