Is Red Wine Good For You or Not? That Is The Question!

Xuesong Han, a doctoral candidate at the Yale School of Public Health, presented a study at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting, which found that drinking red wine, but not beer or liquor, may improve survival in patients with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (NHL).

In an April 2009 interview with Reuter’s Health, Han said, “Animal and cell studies showed that the antioxidants in grapes helped inhibit the development of tumors, and several epidemiological studies showed alcohol drinking might be associated with a reduced risk of NHL, so I wasn’t so surprised by my findings.”

Han and her colleagues analyzed data about 546 women with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. They found that those who drank wine had a 76% five-year survival compared with 68% for non-wine drinkers. Further research found five-year, disease-free survival was 70% among those who drank wine compared with 65% among non-wine drinkers.1

But in March 2009, another new study showed that drinking moderate amounts of any kind of alcohol—including red wine—is associated with a slightly increased breast cancer risk.

Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington evaluated 6,327 women with breast cancer and 7,558 women who did not have a cancer diagnosis. Risk rose with the amount of alcohol consumed, no matter whether it was wine, beer or liquor. The heaviest drinker —women who reported having 14 or more drinks a week—were 24 % more likely to develop breast cancer than nondrinkers.2

The researchers found that neither white wine nor red wine drinkers had a lower risk of breast cancer than nondrinkers.

But for every negative study done on the risks of drinking alcohol, including red wine, there are dozens of studies that point to the potent health benefits of resveratrol, the antioxidant polyphenol found in red grapes—and, you got it, red wine.

Resveratrol is a compound that is particularly concentrated in wines such as pinot noir, and has been the subject of hundreds of animal studies that have demonstrated that it protects against certain types of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease and may potentially even add years to your life.

Added to that list, a new study shows that resveratrol’s properties seem ideal for treating neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s. Researchers at the Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Burke Medical Research Institute in White Plains, New York, fed laboratory animals resveratrol for 45 days and found that it diminished plaque in three areas of the brain.

This study supports the concept that resveratrol may delay or mitigate the onset of neurodegenerative disease by protecting against beta-amyloid plaque formation and oxidative stress. 3

Although it’s questionable whether the benefits of drinking red wine outweigh the risks, hundreds of studies indicate that resveratrol, the extract found in red grapes, is chockfull of numerous health benefits.

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  1. American Association for Cancer Research (2009, April 24). Drinking Wine May Increase Survival Among Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma Patients. Science Daily. Retrieved April 25, 2009.
  2. Newcomb PA, Nichols HB, Beasley JM, Egan K, Titus-Ernstoff L, Hampton JM, Trentham-Dietz ANo Difference Between Red Wine or White Wine Consumption and Breast Cancer Risk. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2009 Mar;18(3):1007-10.
  3. Karuppagounder SS, Pinto JT, Xu H, Chen HL, Beal MF, Gibson GE. Dietary supplementation with resveratrol reduces plaque pathology in a transgenic model of Alzheimer’s disease. Neurochem Int. 2009 Feb;54(2):111-8. Epub 2008 Nov 8.