Can Red Wine Be Healthy?
April 15, 2015
Just like countless others, I like to drink red wine. For a long time it has been my favourite tipple. Not particularly the Californian brands – they’re far too sweet, I prefer a Spanish Vino Tinto. Occasionally, a fuller bodied Rioja, but i’m quite partial to ordinary Vino de Mesa, which tends to have a more earthy genuine flavour. Over the past few years it’s become my alcoholic drink of choice. Pity that recently, I have developed gut problems which has made me question all my food intake. So, having heard of Red Wine being the most healthy alcoholic option, I decided to do a bit of research to find out exactly whether the drink can be consumed on my extreme diet, and if there is any truth to the rumour of it being healthy.
Throughout history, there have been many instances of red wine being used for it’s health benefits. Most notably, for use as an antiseptic or a digestive aid.
But, it was when a report for an American TV show called 60 Minutes identified that French People lived longer that really got a buzz going. Not only living longer, but were generally more healthy than their western counterparts. The search was on to find the elixir of health, and it didn’t take long before scientists came to the conclusion that a compound called Resveratrol was the key. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, the supposedly beneficial compound found in grape skins that had the health community excited. In 1990, the phrase ‘French Paradox’ was first coined by Serge Renaud. The chemical is found in abundance within the skins of Red grapes, and as Resveratrol is dissolved easily within alcohol, it makes Red Wine the ideal medium for consuming this apparently beneficial antioxidant.
Unfortunately, the claims have been discounted by various doctors and scientists with numerous experiments. A more realistic explanation to the French people’s good health could be that their tap water is filtered, so doesn’t have chlorine added to it like so many western authorities see the need to.
This hasn’t stopped the flow of numerous stories reporting of how good red wine is for you. It appears to be a great headline grabber. I am very dubious over these reports, as they are no doubt sponsored by the industry. Claims of drinking wine to cure everything from colds, to cancer is just plain irresponsible.
One study declared that the polyphenols in de-alcoholized red wine found that there was a definite growth in a select group of beneficial gut microbiota (source). Shame it was de-alcoholized.
If you’re wondering just how many polyphenols there are in red wine, see this article.
I believe the key to red wine being healthy or not is all down to additives. The disappointing fact is that the more expensive wines have more ingredients added after production takes place, i’e just before bottling. Have you ever wondered why a Californian wine always has that same exact taste, doesn’t matter which year the grapes were picked – a practical impossibility, if it wasn’t for a specific formula of sugar and flavourings. So, cross all Californian wines off your healthy red wine list.
On this site, you can see a list of all permitted additives for wine.
Grapes which have been grown organically can provide a wine that is far healthier due to the lack of harmful chemicals. Not only are the grapes grown using organic farming methods, but typically, these wines do not contain sulfites (used as a preservative), so they will not hold flavour for an extended period, i.e, you will have to drink the wine within a year.
Naturally Occuring Substances in Red Wine
I chose red wine over white because the health claims are directly from the grapes’ skin, and to make red wine you use the skins, whereas you do not use them with making white wine. White wine is the more processed, and with anything over processed, it’s best to avoid.
See Self.com for the vitamin and mineral analysis of red wine.
Tannins which occur naturally in grape skin help give the wine a sharp flavour. Extra Tannins are also added, depending on how the producer feels the wine should taste. Tannins are a polyphenol which act as an enzyme inhibitor, this means they inhibit the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food. However, another polyphenol in red wine known as proanthocyanidin has been linked to Human longevity, and general health. This may be due to proanthocyanidins being an anti fungal, and is the grapes natural defense mechanism against pathogens which may seek to destroy the grape before full maturity.
Apart from the previously mentioned resveratrol, there are other substances in red wine which have reported health benefits. One is quercetin, which is thought to block histamine actions. Quercetin may be difficult to digest though, so the benefits may be mooted. Another antioxident are catechins. Antioxidents are controversial as many of the promoted benefits used by supplement manufacturers are widely optimistic, and studies have shown that too much of certain vitamins can lead to negative reactions, and even cancer. However, I believe that naturally occuring compounds in minimally processed foods are good for you.
Sulfites are added to the grapes during fermentation in order to suppress mould growth. Some people believe they are sensitive to sulfites, and for this reason should not drink wine. Bottled wine usually has 3 to 5 parts per million (ppm) sulfite at most. As sulfites deteriorate over time and eventually disappear, bottled wines can have 0 ppm. Compare this to bacon which has 600 to 800 ppm sulfites, raisins and dried apricots have over 1000 ppm and canned foods have varying amounts from 250 ppm on up. Sulfites can be detrimental to your health in large quantities, especially if you have a deficiency in sulfite oxidase, which is the enzyme required to break down sulfites.
Receiving a reaction to drinking wine, whether an itchy rash, or hives. Maybe you get a head ache (not attributable to a hangover), or you feel dizzy, or flushed. These conditions are not thought to be a reaction to wine per see, it is more than likely a histamine reaction, which is your body telling you that you have a gut imbalance. The trigger in wine could be one of the polyphenol’s that make up the grapes natural defence mechanism, or the sulfites. In fact, as I have discovered through months of research and experimentation, any intolerance you may have is caused by a gut imbalance. A program of gut flora correction is the only way to permanently deal with allergies and intolerances.
So there you were having a nice drink with your meal thinking you were doing something inoquous, when in fact, you were doing yourself harm.
Do not drink red wine because you think it’s a healthy.
The mere fact that alcohol is in the drink by definition makes it unhealthy, but as far as alcoholic drinks go, red wine is not too bad, especially if you drink organic red wine.