Are Italians Healthier Because They Drink Red Wine?

Italians are known for their higher life expectancy (the 3rd highest in Europe and seventh in the world) and lower rates of heart disease. The Italians’ long and healthy life can be attributed to a relatively clean environment, Mediterranean weather, and genetics.

Besides these factors, diet also plays a major role in their higher life expectancy. We emphasize the modest use of red wine in the Italian diet. Alcohol consumption raises the risk of some malignancies and other ailments, according to several scientific research. However, other research studies claim that moderate consumption of red wine increases health in plenty of ways.

A large percentage of the European population believes that an acceptable consumption of red wine is good for the heart. A European study conducted in France and Denmark in 2000 concluded that the French, who also have a higher consumption of red wine, have lower rates of heart disease. Red wine includes Resveratrol, a phytochemical that aids in preventing cancer and heart disease, according to a pathological examination.

The chemistry of red wine and its correlation to our well-being has been studied for many years. Some studies suggest that a glass of red wine is good for the heart, while others do not find any correlation between red wine and heart health.

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Many studies promoting the consumption of wine propose that individuals who indulge in moderate wine consumption are less prone to heart disease than non-drinkers and heavy drinkers. This cardiovascular well-being is frequently linked to red wine’s antioxidants (polyphenols). These polyphenols play a role in maintaining our blood vessels’ health and preventing LDL cholesterol oxidation. It’s worth noting, however, that unanimity in support of these assertions is yet to be established through conclusive evidence.

Some medical experts believe that resveratrol, a chemical compound found in the skin of red grapes, may be responsible for some of the benefits associated with red wine consumption. Resveratrol has anti-inflammatory effects and may have the ability to protect us from cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease. However, the problem with these findings is that no direct evidence links resveratrol consumption with any of these diseases. Nevertheless, researchers continue to investigate how resveratrol may benefit human health.

Heart disease is a leading cause of death worldwide, so even a small reduction in risk because of red wine could have major health benefits. Some population studies have shown that those who moderately consume red wine (i.e., one serving per day) have lower rates of heart disease than those who drink less or none at all. Furthermore, polyphenols in red wine may help prevent blood clotting and, therefore, lead to lower blood pressure and less risk for heart attacks, strokes, and other forms of cardiovascular diseases.

Benefits of Red Wine

In-depth research has been done on the health advantages of red wine. One major benefit of red wine is its ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, which is often a result of high cholesterol and oxidative damage.

pizza on white tray

Red Wine’s Antioxidant Qualities

Plant chemicals called flavonoids have several positive health effects. Many of the tannins in red wine are also present in many fruits and vegetables, tea, dark chocolate, and blueberries. When you open a bottle of red wine, you may get more health benefits than just a glass of fermented grapes.

The flavonoids in red wine are purported to be good for your heart. Though it has been proposed that there is a definitive link between flavonoid consumption and heart functionality, there’s no evidence that red wine is any healthier than these other sources of the beneficial compound.

Antioxidants prevent harm from free radicals. An excess of free radicals can lead to many malfunctions and disorders inside the body, like cancer and heart attacks. Flavonoids, a group of molecules formed due to the breakdown of food inside the body or upon exposure to harmful chemicals, are widely studied for their antioxidant effects.

Prevention of Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Did you know? Red wine can help prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s and help control blood sugar levels. The grapes used to produce wine contain polyphenols, which are natural plant compounds with antioxidant properties.

The Polyphenols in grapes include Resveratrol, which according to a study published in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology, helps control blood sugar levels through a glucose uptake mechanism.

The Dark Story Behind Italy’s Wine 

When you consume alcohol (including red wine), your liver metabolizes alcohol instead of glucose. During this process, your liver stores more glucose than it normally would because it thinks that it needs more glucose for energy in the future. When the liver has the need and time, it breaks down all the stored glucose after the alcohol is metabolized, and blood sugar levels drop drastically.

Oral Benefits of Red Wine

Red wine benefits your oral health in two ways. It lowers the risk of cavities and prevents gum disease. Red wine contains polyphenols that kill bacteria in your mouth. These substances interact with microorganisms to stop cavities, tooth decay, and bad breath. They also help prevent gum disease by keeping plaque from building up on your teeth, making your gums healthier. Additionally, polyphenols help with bad breath.

Weight Loss and Diabetes Prevention

Research studies found that red wine contains several beneficial compounds for weight loss. Consuming red wine and a balanced diet, including healthy foods and exercise, helps. According to studies, red wine helps lessen the amount of fat stored in your body. The antioxidant resveratrol is abundant in grapes, which may increase your calories and help your body burn fat faster.

The new modern diet of Keto counts a glass of red wine as 0 calories. Therefore, it is not bad to include some wine in your dinner. One study over eight weeks showed that people who consumed resveratrol lost weight more quickly than those who didn’t. Participants in the study lost an extra two pounds on average if they took Resveratrol compared to those who didn’t.

In another study, it was observed that people who consume about 17 ounces (500 ml) of red wine per day for women and about 34 ounces (1 liter) for men had a dramatically lower risk of suffering from type 2 diabetes than those who never or rarely drank red wine. Interestingly, the same results were not seen in those who drank white wine.

The results suggest that it’s not just alcohol but something specific to red wine that helps prevent diabetes. Polyphenols in red grapes are linked with reduced insulin resistance and decreased inflammation, which can help prevent type 2 diabetes. However, the exact mechanism remains unclear.

person holding clear wine glass with red wine

 

Demerits of Excessive Drinking

Besides the benefits of red wine already mentioned, it is important to remember that only moderate consumption of red wine results in good health — so women should not drink over one glass and men over two glasses per day. Excessive red wine consumption is linked with numerous adverse health effects. According to Mayo Clinic, moderate alcohol or red wine consumption is beneficial. The key to reaping those potential merits is moderation.

The most significant health benefits is the prevention of heart disease and stroke. However,  Mayo Clinic cautions that “the same amount of alcohol raises the risk of high blood pressure, obesity, and some cancers”.

Red Wine Vs. White Wine

Wine and Italy’s Unification

Summary

The health benefits of red wine are well-known, and wine has been a part of Italian cuisine since at least ancient Etruscan. Wine is often considered a category in alcoholic drinks due to its abundant antioxidants and polyphenols.

Beneficial compounds in red wine have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Resveratrol, a component of red wine, has anti-inflammatory properties that can aid your body in warding off disease or infection.

While these health benefits are not enough reason for those who do not drink alcohol to drink red wine, they may be worth considering if you enjoy an occasional glass after dinner or on weekends.

See more resources here.

Want to read more? Try these books!

The Longevity Factor- How Resveratrol and Red Wine Activate Genes for a Longer and Healthier Life The Red Wine Diet- Drink Wine Every Day, and Live a Long and Healthy Life

Resources

Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart? [Online]. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281 (Accessed: August 6, 2023).