Wine benefit and health concerns by Ray Sahelian, M.D.
March 15 2016

Wine is most often made from grapes, but can be made from many other fruits or plants such as plum, elderberry and blackcurrant. However, only grapes are naturally chemically balanced to ferment completely without requiring extra sugars, acids, enzymes or other nutrients. Red wine has a beneficial substance called resveratrol which is available as a supplement. It has become popular since rodent studies showed that resveratrol could potentially have anti-aging properties.

Health benefit of red wine
In small amounts it improves cardiovascular health and reduces inflammation. If you have health problems such as liver disease, very high blood pressure or depression, you should not drink alcohol. Wines thought to contain the highest amounts of flavonoids are Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir. Red wine contains much more resveratrol than white wine.
   The health benefits from drinking generally are related to the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in red wines and dark beers. These substances can be found in a number of different fruits and vegetables. People can get resveratrol -- the antioxidant found in red wine that's believed to provide most of the drink's health benefits -- from drinking grape juice just as well as from drinking wine.

Wine and Alzheimer's disease
Giving mice with Alzheimer's-like disease the equivalent of a couple of glasses of red wine daily slows memory loss and brain cell death. The researchers calibrated the animals' wine intake to match the US Department of Agriculture's definition of moderate wine consumption, a single 5-ounce glass daily for women and two glasses for men. Dr. Giulio Maria Pasinetti of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City says the findings back up epidemiological research linking moderate alcohol consumption to a lower dementia risk. On a random basis, Pasinetti and his team gave mice cabernet sauvignon or ethanol -- the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages -- in their drinking water for seven months. Another group of mice drank plain water. All of the animals had a genetic defect that caused them to develop amyloid plaques in their brains, the type of damage that occurs in humans with Alzheimer's disease. The researchers then tested the animals' memory by putting them through a series of maze tests, after the animals had been alcohol-free for three days. The wine-drinking mice learned how to escape from the maze significantly faster than those drinking alcohol-spiked water or water only. The FASEB Journal, 2006.


Planta Med. 2012. Novel role of red wine-derived polyphenols in the prevention of Alzheimer's disease dementia and brain pathology: experimental approaches and clinical implications. Studies suggest that dietary polyphenolics may benefit Alzheimer's disease by modulating multiple disease-modifying modalities, both β-amyloid-dependent and independent mechanisms, and provide impetus for the development of polyphenolic compounds for Alzheimer's disease prevention and/or therapy.


Heart health
Is red wine good for the heart or is it a controversy?
    Small amounts are beneficial to the heart and cardiovascular system, but large amounts can be harmful. Drinking in the evening can interfere with proper sleep does causing harm to the body.

Wine and cancer

Dr. Chun Chao of Kaiser Permanente Southern California in Pasadena reports drinking red wine, but not white wine, may reduce lung cancer risk, especially among current and ex-smokers. Dr. Chun Chao found people who had ever smoked and who drank at least a glass of red wine daily were 60 percent less like to develop lung cancer than ever-smokers who didn't drink alcohol. Since wine didn't reduce risk, it could be compounds contained in red wine, such as resveratrol and flavonoids, rather than the healthier lifestyle associated with wine drinking, that may be protective. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, 2008.


Wine and inflammation
Those who drink moderate amounts of wine may have less inflammation in their blood vessels. Inflammation is part of the body's response to injury. Chronic, low-level inflammation in response to stresses like smoking, high cholesterol and obesity contributes to the buildup of fatty deposits in the inner lining of arteries. Inflammation make these plaques more likely to rupture and create a blood clot that could then trigger a heart attack. Red wine has high concentration of polyphenols, plant compounds that act as antioxidants and help reduce inflammation.


Drinking red wine may help fight inflammation in the body. Polyphenols and resveratrol, an anti-oxidant found in red wine, protects mice when they are exposed to a strong inflammatory agent. Mice that are not pre-treated with resveratrol developed a serious reaction similar to the inflammatory disorder sepsis. The study found that it blocks two major proteins in the body that trigger inflammation.

Wine and longevity, life expectancy
Drinking a small amount of wine appears to extend men's life expectancy by a few years. Dutch researchers evaluated the impact on health and life expectancy of long-term alcohol consumption, tracking 1,373 men born between 1900 and 1920 who lived in Zutphen, an industrial town in the Netherlands. They followed alcohol intake in seven surveys carried out over four decades starting in 1960, tracking some men until they died and the rest until 2000. The men were asked about drinking, eating and smoking habits, weight, and prevalence of heart attack, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
   Drinking a small amount of alcohol -- less than a glass per day -- was associated with lower rates of death from cardiovascular causes and overall causes. Drinking wine appeared to be more protective than spirits and beer. Drinking an average of about half a glass of wine per day was associated with lowest mortality levels. Men who drank wine had a life expectancy 3.8 years longer than those who drank no alcohol. These wine drinkers also had a life expectancy two years longer than those who drank other alcoholic beverages. The researchers found men's long-term consumption of up to two glasses of alcohol a day was associated with about a one-third lower overall mortality risk and risk of cardiovascular death compared to men who drank no alcohol. For more info on longevity.

2009 - Drinking up to half a glass of wine per day can help you live up to five years longer -- at least for men, according to researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The impact also depends on the exact amount drunk -- more than half a glass starts bringing life expectancy down again. "Drinking wine was strongly associated with a lower risk of dying from coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and death from all causes," said the study. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

Mild to moderate wine drinking, but not beer or liquor, may improve survival in patients with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a type of blood cancer involving the lymph nodes, according to research reported at the American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting in Denver in April 2009. Animal and cell studies indicate that the antioxidants in grapes helped inhibit the development of tumors.

Red Wine and Stroke
Drinking might protect the brain from damage after a stroke and regularly drinking moderate amounts of red wine may help prevent a stroke from occurring. To understand the effects of red wine, the scientists from Johns Hopkins University fed mice a moderate dose of resveratrol, a compound found in red grape skins and seeds before inducing stroke-like damage. They discovered that the animals suffered less brain damage than similarly damaged mice that were not treated with resveratrol. Dr. Sylvain Dore, the lead researcher for the study said resveratrol increases levels of an enzyme in the brain -- heme oxygenase -- that was already known to shield nerve cells from damage. Dore said the beneficial effects associated with drinking a moderate amount of red wine could be explained by the fact the wine turns on the heme oxygenase anti-oxidant system. The fermentation process in wine-making boosts the concentration of resveratrol. The amount of wine that must be consumed to reap the benefits of the compound will vary depending on a person's weight and the concentration of resveratrol in the wine but is about one or two glasses a day.

Red Wine and blood thinning
Moderate red wine consumption has been associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease. Reduced plasma viscosity and fibrinogen levels have been launched as possible contributors to this risk reduction. A daily glass of red wine reduces plasma viscosity. Fibrinogen concentrations are also significantly reduced by red wine consumption. Procyanidins may be the factor behind red wine's cardioprotective effect.

Red wine and heart health
Oligomeric procyanidins appear to be the substances in red wine involved in keeping a heart healthy. Some red wines contain more procyanidins than others. In the journal Nature, Dr. Roger Corder, from Queen Mary's School of Medicine and Dentistry in London, and his associates cultured human blood vessel cells and exposed them to 165 different wines to identify the polyphenols with most potent effects on blood vessels. They found that procyanidins suppress production of a protein called endothelin-1 that constricts blood vessels. High-performance liquid chromatography identified oligomeric procyanidins as the specific phenolic constituent responsible for this effect. People living in Nuoro province, Sardinia, and southwest France have higher than normal average longevity. And wines from those regions, had a 2- to 4-fold higher inhibitory effect on endothelin-1 and significantly higher oligomeric procyanidin levels than wines from Australia, Europe, South America, the US, and Sardinia. Traditional wine-making methods and use of the flavonoid -rich grape Tannat commonly grown in southwest France result in high levels of oligomeric procyanidins in the local wine. Nature, November 30, 2006.

Red Wine for Stroke
Red wine might work to protect the brain from damage after a stroke and drinking a couple of glasses a day might provide that protection ahead of time. In an effort to better understand how red wine works, the scientists from Johns Hopkins University fed mice a moderate dose of a compound found in red grape skins and seeds before inducing stroke-like damage. They discovered that the animals suffered less brain damage than similarly damaged mice who were not treated with the compound, which is called resveratrol. "When we pre-treat the animals with the red wine compound orally, then we observe that we have a decrease in the area of stroke damage by about 40 percent," said Sylvain Dore, the lead researcher for the study. "What is unique about this study is we have somewhat identified what can be the specific mechanism," in the wine that is good for health, Dore said. "Here we are building cell resistance against free radical damage." The study showed that resveratrol increases levels of an enzyme in the brain -- heme oxygenase -- that was already known to shield nerve cells from damage. The amount of wine that must be consumed in order to reap the benefits of the compound will vary depending on a person's weight and the concentration of resveratrol in the wine. But Dore said it will likely work out to about two glasses a day.

Leptin levels
The Effect of Red Wine on Plasma Leptin Levels and Vasoactive Factors from Adipose Tissue: A Randomized Crossover Trial.
Alcohol Alcohol. 2007.
Red wine increases levels of the appetite-regulating hormone leptin in females, but not in males.

The psychological aspects of wine tasting
A high price on a bottle of wine makes it taste better. The part of the brain that reacts to a pleasant experience responds more strongly to pricey wines than cheap ones — even when tasters are given the same vintage in disguise.

List of common red wine types:
European wines tend to be classified by region (Bordeaux, Rioja and Chianti), while non-European wines are most often classified by grape (Pinot Noir and Merlot).

Beaujolais - France
Bordeaux is a from France made primarily from three varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes.  Located in Bordeaux region of France, the districts of Medoc, St. Emilion, & Pomerol make red wines exclusively
Burgundy - France
Cabernet Blanc
Cabernet Sauvignon - One of the world's most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. Served with meat.
Chianti district in Tuscany lent its name to this wine which comes in a straw-covered flask
Madeira Named for a Portuguese island, this fortified wine traveled well & was popular in colonial America
is a sweet dessert wine that originated in Spain.
Moselle wines come from Germany
Pinot Noir
Sherry spanish fortified, used as appetizer
Syrah or Shiraz is a dark-skinned grape grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce powerful red wines.
Zinfandel - USA (California, Washington State), dry like claret.
In this U.S. state, Zinfandel is the red wine grape with the most producing acres

Light-bodied refers to the mouth-feel and tannin structure. A light-bodied wine will have fewer tannins present and less presence on the palate. Gamay grape varietal, such as France’s famed young red wine: Beaujolais Nouveau.
A medium-bodied red wine will contain more tannins: Merlot, Shiraz or a Chianti.
Full-bodied red wines boast the highest tannin (and often alcohol) content. France’s esteemed Bordeaux wines, California’s key Cabs and Italy’s sizzling Super Tuscans.

Spirits can be added to create fortified wines, such as port and sherry.
Spumante, Italian for "sparkling", its use is applied to genuine sparkling wines, it is usually white, rose, but rarely red,
This sweet sparkling wine hails from the Italian town of Asti

Decanting is a term for pouring wine into another container before serving; it helps clear it of sediments
On wine labels, Chateau, which means "estate" precedes Lafite & Mouton-Rothschild
Nose is "Anatomical" term for a wine's bouquet

Chardonnay is a green-skinned grape variety used to make white wine. It originated in the Burgundy wine region of eastern France.
Chenin Blanc
Pinot Gris or Pinot Grigio
Riesling, dry from rhine valley Type of white wine that comes in Alsatian & Johannisberg varieties
Sauvignon Blanc is a green-skinned grape variety which originates from the Bordeaux region of France.

Gallo California firm is the largest producer of wine in the U.S.

Rose Despite its name, this pink wine is made from grapes, not flowers

Vermouth used to make martinis, it's an aperitif wine flavored with herbs, The dry white variety of this wine is used in a martini; the sweet variety, in a Manhattan

Q. I am intersted in the benefits of red wine and it is components, however I am not a big fan of alcohol so I would like to know if it is possible to obtain the same effects by consuming the right amount of grape juice or something else, or if it is necesary to take a supplement like resveratrol.
   A. It's very difficult to say. Drinking grape juice is helpful, so is eating different types of grapes, and perhaps there may be additional benefit in taking a resveratrol supplement once or twice a week, but we really don't have enough research to make any firm recommendations at this time.

Q. Which brand wines can I buy high in polyphenols found for heart health?
   A. Most wines should be fine. It is a good idea to alternate different ones.

In your newsletter August 2009 where you discuss resveratrol  you say that Pinot Noir (a grape variety) seems to have the highest concentration. This is not the case as most studies show that the Tannat (grape variety) has very much the highest concentration and in the region of its cultivation the SouthWest and central France - especially the Gers (a department) - its consumption correlates well to studies of cardiac health . The other varieties of Red grapes are fairly similar (with a hierarchy); but their (all) wines and their place (terrain) and style of cultivation (exposure of grapes to the sun and to fungus attack , etc) and vinification (eg: using oak barrels) also has a large and significant affect on the measurable quantities of polyphenols ,etc. As you so often remind us resveratrol is only one of the many , but it does seem to provide a good marker. Concorde table grapes are said to have good resveratrol levels and general ORAC levels. Not a variety local to me. Life here in the South of France on the Med and in the most extensive vinyard in the world is not too burdensome. Keep on keeping us on the healthy pathway.

I have been making prickly pear wine for about 20 years as a hobbyist but now am opening a commercial winery which will have PP Cactus Wine as one of our key wines. Our winery is Texas Star Winery in Richards, TX, about 1.5 hrs NW of Houston. I am making prickly pear wine in 1,100 gallon tanks (about 5,000 bottles) that takes about 6 months to get to bottling; the wine must ‘rest’ for about 3 months to smooth out. After that it is outstanding! The wine turns from cranberry red to a nice golden color by the time it is bottled. Earl Love.

I want to know the difference between red wine and grape seed extract. Can red wine be consumed by Indian ladies for curative purpose like as an antioxidant source.
   Red wine is made from the whole grape, with the skin, the seeds are not used while grape seed extract has a different chemical composition. They are both healthy additions to one's diet and supplementation. Red wine does have antioxidant benefits.