Wine: Two parts healthy, two parts not-so-much?

Wine, Sorceress, changes an unexciting meal into communion, and draws, from the acid of imperfection, tannic philosophy and sweet laughter.  A glass of the liquid transforms defeat into graceful concession, partnership into romance.  With wine flows exchange, tolerance, largesse.

So wine drinkers believe, and so, to them, the news of its alleged cardioprotective and even cancer-fighting properties is well, not really news.

Yet, while two of red wine’s chemical ingredients, flavonoids and resveratrol, both polyphenols, seem likely to have positive effects on the cells of the human body, two of its other ingredients could cause damage.  Let’s take a good look and find out if we should have a daily glass of burgundy for our health, or make ourselves a nice berry tea, instead.

The parts of red wine that are considered beneficial are the flavonoids (associated with helping prevent the hardening of the arteries), and found in both red and white wine, and the resveratrol, found in red and purple grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and cranberries, and thus only in red wine.  Resveratrol seems to inhibit cancer growth through its interactions with certain enzymes that suppress tumors.

The problematic parts of red wine are the alcohol and the sugars.  Its alcohol (scientifically known as ethanol) also interacts with enzymes, but these interactions seem more likely to cause cancer, by contributing to lipid peroxidation, which “can cause damage to cell membranes, sometimes irreversible to the cell” (Markosi).

Sugar, in excess, causes harm as well, via the inflammatory effects of too much glucose on pathways in the cells (Peiró, Concepción, et al.).

So, seen under the microscope, red wine seems to have as many downsides to our physical health as upsides, and white wine, since it does not contain resveratrol and contains even more sugar than red, might be said to have less benefits.

But….what about wine’s effect on the psyche?  The mellow, relaxed, it’s all-been-done-before feeling that puts us in the mood to be together?  Can the health benefits of dealcoholized wine compensate for our absence of intoxication?  Can grape juice make a party out of an assembly?  Or a tea of red berries turn the two-step into a tango?

Should it?

Please leave a thought and/or a recommendation here!


Antioxidant: a substance capable of neutralizing oxygen free radicals, the highly active and damaging atoms and chemical groups produced by various disease processes, and by poisons.

Enzyme:  any of numerous complex proteins that are produced by living cells and catalyse specific biochemical reactions at body temperatures.

Flavonoids: a group of naturally occurring phenolic compounds, many of which are plant pigments. They are strong antioxidants in their natural state, but are poorly absorbed from the intestine.

Lipid: any of a group of naturally occurring fats or fat-like substances characterized by being insoluble in water but soluble in solvents such as chloroform or alcohol.

Polyphenols: a variety of aromatic compounds in plant foods that have multiple hydroxyl groups; they are generally considered to have beneficial antioxidant action.

Resveratrol: a stilbene and potent antioxidant

Wine: On average, wine is 86% water, 12% ethanol, 1% glycerol and polysaccharides or other trace elements, different types of acids 0.5%, and volatile compounds, 0.5 %


Markosi, Melissa, “Molecular Properties of Red Wine Compounds and Cardiometabolic  Benefits” in Nutritional and Metabolic Insights Vol. 9 U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health.  08/02/2016

Peiró, Concepción, et al. “Inflammation, glucose, and vascular cell damage: the role of the pentose phosphate pathway.” Cardiovascular Diabetology 2016; 15:82, published online June 1st 2016, doi 10.1186/s12933-016-0397-2

Image: in  Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387


Sohaib Haseeb, Bryce Alexander, and Adrian Baranchuck “Wine and Cardiovascular Health: A Comprehensive Review” Circulation. 2017; 136:1434-1448.  DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.117.030387

Lehman, Shereen, “Overview of Stilbenes in Plants” in Very Well Fit

Senior, Kathryn, “Molecular explanation for cancer-prevention properties of red wine.”  The Lancet Oncology, Vol. 3 No. 4, p. 200.  April 2002

Skerett, Patrick J. “Resveratrol- the hype continues,” Harvard Health Publishing  February 3, 2012

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