For years, researchers have told Americans that drinking red wine is actually beneficial–despite what the D.A.R.E program told us in middle school. It has been held up as some sort of miracle tonic that will keep you spry and your ticker tip-top. Recently, it’s even been touted as a key to weight loss. So, what’s the deal? Is it really healthy and will it aid weight loss? Yes and no. Unfortunately, it’s one of those subjects where nuance is required. More than one study has linked red wine to maintaining a healthier long-term body weight. The Archive of Internal Medicine published a study in 2010 that examined the effects of moderate alcohol consumption on 19,000 middle-aged women over the course of eight years. The study concluded that “normal-weight” women who drank moderately (like a glass of wine each night) were less likely to become overweight or obese compared to women who didn’t drink. Similarly, a study for the Women’s Health Initiative found that women who drank moderately were more likely to maintain a healthy weight. That’s great news for wine lovers, but the most important factor seems to be moderation. Two glasses are fine, two bottles are not. Wine is calorie dense (a 5-ounce glass can contain more than 100 calories) but lacks significant amounts of iron, potassium, B vitamins, and other nutrients. Additionally, when most people drink wine with dinner, they tend not to compensate by eating less food. It leads to people increasing their daily caloric intake without realizing it. That is decidedly not good for weight loss. If red wine is part of your normal routine, ideally, you should compensate for those calories with diet and exercise. Because, surprise, a bottle of merlot and a package of Hot Pockets isn’t going to do anything for your figure. As for red wine’s other benefits… It does contain a number of antioxidants, which are good for the body. According to the Mayo Clinic, antioxidants called polyphenols might help protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that regular, moderate consumption of red wine, polyphenols in particular, can alter the types of bacteria found in the digestive system. In other words, red wine can precipitate a shift toward good bacteria, which benefits the immune system. Resveratrol, another antioxidant, might help prevent damage to blood vessels, prevent blood clots, and reduce “bad” cholesterol. However, the Mayo Clinic notes that most research on the effects of antioxidants has been conducted in experiments with animals, not humans. It also notes that these benefits have been observed with moderate consumption of other alcohols, not just red wine. Again, the name of the game is moderation when considering these benefits. No one’s suggesting that drinking two bottles of pinot a night is healthy. In fact, the Mayo Clinic specifically warns that “Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of high blood pressure, high triglycerides, [linkbuilder id=”6629″ text=”liver damage”], obesity, certain types of cancer, accidents and other problems.” Additionally, a study that concluded in 2004 found that increased alcohol consumption among women was associated with a higher risk of breast cancer. So, go ahead and have that glass of wine after work! Just don’t go nuts!
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