Benefits of all alcohol:
Studies on the use of alcohol have shown protective effects against coronary heart disease (CHD). These studies show that one or two alcoholic drinks per day increases high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. Also, moderate alcohol consumption decreases low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides. Finally, alcohol consumption decreases platelet aggregation.
Benefits of Red Wine
There has been some discussion recently, including an article in the New York Times, pointing out that there is a difference in lifestyle among people who drink wine, beer, and other alcoholic beverages, including social class and diet, that may also explain why wine seems to offer more protection than others against coronary heart disease. (1)
Regardless, wine, especially red wine, really does seem to have benefits that the other sources of alcohol do not have, including:
Red wine may have anti-inflammatory effects. It reduces C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation that seems to be related to atherosclerosis. (2)
Red wine has higher concentrations of antioxidant molecules, called polyphenols, than other alcoholic drinks. The antioxidant properties of these polyphenols may contribute to protection against coronary heart disease by reducing oxidation of LDL cholesterol. (3) The polyphenols in red wine include anthocyanins, proanthocyanidins, and resveratrol, and flavonoids, including catechins, kaempferol, and quercetin. (4,5) However, the polyphenol content of wine is dependent upon grape variety, climate, and the methods used to make the wine. White wines, unlike red wines, have very low polyphenol concentrations.
Red wine may also reduce mutagenic DNA damage and improve endothelial function when included in a high fat diet. (6) Wine can stimulate gastric acid secretion and gastrin release. This may explain why moderate to high wine intake seems to prevent Helicobacter pylori infection. (7) Finally, the anthocyanins in red wine may help prevent various cancers. (8)
Red wine may help to prevent noise-induced hearing loss (9), reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (10), may help to prevent cataracts (11), and may help to prevent rheumatoid arthritis (12).
1. Rimm EB, Stampfer MJ. Wine, beer, and spirits: are they really horses of a different color? Circulation 2002;105:2806-7.
2. Estruch R, Sacanella E, Badia E, et al. Different effects of red wine and gin consumption on inflammatory biomarkers of atherosclerosis: a prospective randomized crossover trial. Effects of wine on inflammatory markers. Atherosclerosis 2004;175:117-23.
3. Klatsky AL, Armstrong MA, Friedman GD. Red wine, white wine, liquor, beer, and risk for coronary artery disease hospitalization. Am J Cardiol 1997;80:416-20.
4. Caccetta RA, Croft KD, Beilin LJ, Puddey IB. Ingestion of red wine significantly increases plasma phenolic acid concentrations but does not acutely affect ex vivo lipoprotein oxidizability. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;71:67-74.
5. Soleas GJ, Diamandis EP, Goldberg DM. Wine as a biological fluid: history, production, and role in disease prevention. J Clin Lab Anal 1997;11:287-313.
6. Leighton F, Cuevas A, Guasch V, et al. Plasma polyphenols and antioxidants, oxidative DNA damage and endothelial function in a diet and wine intervention study in humans. Drugs Exp Clin Res 1999;25:133-41.
7. Brenner H, Rothenbacher D, Bode G, Adler G. Relation of smoking and alcohol and coffee consumption to active Helicobacter pylori infection: cross sectional study. BMJ 1997;315:1489-92.
8. Hou, D. X. Potential mechanisms of cancer chemoprevention by anthocyanins. Curr Mol Med. 3(2):149-159, 2003.
9. Seidman, M., et al. Effects of resveratrol on acoustic trauma. Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 129(5):463-470, 2003.
10. Obisesan, T.O., et al. Moderate wine consumption is associated with decreased odds of developing age-related macular degeneration in NHANES-1. J Am Geriatr Soc. 46:1-7, 1998.
11. Jonasson, F., et al. Abstract B198: Moderate red wine drinking reduces risk for cataract. Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology. Fort Lauderdale, USA. May 4, 2005.
12. Kallberg, H., et al. Alcohol consumption is associated with decreased risk of rheumatoid arthritis; Results from two Scandinavian case-control studies. Ann Rheum Dis. 2008.