Chin-Chin, Cheers, Salud

The controversy surrounding the heart healthy effects of wine

For all of you wine enthusiasts out there, there’s just something about uncorking a bottle of red, pouring a glass and then taking that first sip.

A glass or three at mealtime is fine because wine, and especially red, is heart healthy -- right?

Not so fast, say experts: the topic is debatable.  Though studies point toward potential health effects, red wine (sadly) can just as easily lead to negative ones as well.

But -- let’s start with the good news, first.

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have linked consumption of red wine with the reduction of blood clots, prevention of artery damage and increase of high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the good kind).

“For many, the benefit of libations such as wine is associated to heart disease and for good reason.  Research has shown that moderate consumption of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, increases HDL cholesterol, lowers LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of blood clotting by lowering fibrinogen and blood platelet aggregation,” explained Anu Kaur,  MS, RD, RYT.

Red wine, in part, is associated with positive health benefits, because it’s jam-packed with phytochemicals, or plant-based compounds, that function as antioxidants to protect the body from damage by free radicals.

The two main types of antioxidants are flavonoids and nonflavonoids, and the latter are what have researchers buzzing. 

In particular, a type of nonflavonoid, called resveratrol, comes from the skin of the grapes (especially purple and dark red grapes) and is associated with much of the heart healthy hype.  Large amounts of resveratrol have been correlated with lowering overall risk for coronary heart disease as well.

Even though wine may have its benefits, it’s important to note that there are other more nutritionally dense foods that offer the same components when it comes down to the effects of resveratrol. 

“You can easily get resveratrol from other non-alcoholic foods and beverages by adding foods like peanuts, grape juice, raspberries and mulberries to your diet,” said Kaur.

Now, folks, let’s get to the bad news:  Consumption of wine is that of empty calories. 

In this sense, people who drink a large amount of wine have a higher potential for weight gain.

“A five-ounce serving of red table wine provides 125 calories and those calories come mainly from the alcohol, which touts seven calories per gram of alcohol and carbohydrates at four calories per gram of carbohydrate,” explained Kaur.

Though the American Heart Association doesn’t promote alcohol consumption, the organization advises that women should have one drink per day, whereas men should stick with around two.

Why?  Research has shown that excessive drinking can lead to increased levels of triglycerides, high blood pressure, stroke as well as alcoholism.  Studies have further indicated that alcohol intake can lead to higher rates of cancer.

Kaur recommends individuals consider their own personal set of risk factors when taking wine and general alcohol consumption into account. 

“We are each individuals with a unique set of personal risk factors.  Each of us needs to take into consideration family history, obesity and potential drug interactions, along with what works for each of us to improve our quality of life,” Kaur stated.  “So consider your own personal risk factors and work with a health professional to grasp a better understanding of what would be best for you, given your family history and current lifestyle choices, to determine your alcohol intake.”

So, to you wine-os:  keep your sipping in check if you’re helping Jeremiah drink his wine, because rumor is--he had a mighty fine wine.

For more information on Anu Kaur, visit

If you’re looking to partake in the heart healthy benefits of (moderate!) wine consumption, check out the following wine festivals, classes and tastings:

Capital Wine Festival (visit the website to purchase tickets)

March 2: 
Ponzi Vineyards, 7 p.m.

March 9:
Palmaz Vineyards, 7 p.m.

Washington Wine Academy Education Center
1201 South Eads Street, Suite 400
Arlington, VA 22202

Cork Market
1805 14th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20009
Phone: (202) 265-2674

Monday-Thursday, 5-7 p.m.
Friday, 6-8 p.m.
Saturday, 3-6 p.m.

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