7 Reasons To Drink Wine Each Night of the Week!

Feeling guilty about your nightly glass of wine? Stop right there! Moderate drinking - especially wine - provides a host of benefits. Here are seven solid (or shall I say, liquid?) reasons to indulge in a glass (or two!) of wine each night! 

MONDAY: THINK SMARTER

cognitive function red wine

Monday often manifests as foggy, half-hearted attempts to #pullittogether for another week's journey. While coffee is often the go-to beverage of choice to get one's brain kicking, red wine may help out as well! (Just not in the morning, obvi.) For starters, alcohol itself may protect the brain by numerous mechanisms, such as lowering cholesterol while increasing "good" HDL, benefiting blood platelets, and improving insulin sensitivity. It may be particularly beneficial in preventing cognitive diseases like dementia.

In a 3-year 2011 German study, over 3,000 participants aged 75 and older filled out surveys of daily alcohol intake, while the researchers kept health tabs via their doctors. About half of the participants were non drinkers, a quarter drank less than a drink per day, while the remaining quarter was split between 1-2 drinks per day (~12%), and more than 2 drinks per day (~12%). (Half drank wine, 1/3 drank beer, and the remainder drank mixed drinks.) The study notably accounted for lifestyle, social, and genetic factors (such as the apoe4 gene involved in Alzheimer predisposition), as well as physical and mental health in general. The researchers found that, unlike not drinking, 1-3 drinks per day reduced all types of dementia by around 29%, and Alzheimer's  specifically by around 42%.

Beyond alcohol, wine itself may boost further brain benefits, thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, as well as its ability to relax blood vessels. A 2008 randomized study which followed almost 1500 women for 34 years (oh my!), found that wine specifically was most protective against dementia, especially when it was the only type of alcohol consumed. (This study did notably find that pure spirits was correlated with increased dementia in women.) The study credited wine's dementia slaying benefits due to potential wine compounds like antioxidants and polyphenols. A multitude of other longitudinal studies have found that wine consumption specifically, in comparison to alcohol in general, reduces dementia rates.

Furthermore, resveratrol in red wine may activate specific genes called sirtuins. We'll look at these in more detail for longevity on Saturday, but just know SIRT1 helps prevent neuronal loss. Gotta keep those brain cells kicking!

What about wine and mood? Although similar to transient emotions, "mood" entails a more sustained, overall feeling not directed at any one object, and involves a combination of levels of pleasure and sleepiness-related arousal. While it may go without saying, alcohol stimulates feelings of euphoria and elation, while its declination leads to relaxation and sleepiness.

A fascinating 2014 randomized control trial looked at alcohol's effect on mood while consumed with a meal. It found that, while alcohol did not substantially increase mood when one was already happy, it did increase mood when one experienced an unpleasant ambiance. (I'm going to save the details of the study, along with more on the wine/mood topic, for a future post!) As for the extremes of mood, the previously discussed German trial found that alcohol intake correlated to decreased levels of depression. And a 2013 study on alcohol and depression published in BMC Medicine, followed 5,000+ men and women at high risk for depression over 7 years, and found that, while heavy drinking correlated to higher rates of depression, moderate alcohol intake (5-15 grams, or the equivalent of approximately .3 to 1 glass of wine per day) was significantly associated with less risk of depression.

The takeaway? A glass or two of wine may just be the tool you need to keep your brain churning, soften your Monday evening, and welcome the rest of the week!

TUESDAY: BOOST ANTIOXIDANTS

red wine oxidative stress

In the diet/health world, a myriad of food and supplement "miracles" often compete for the spotlight. (Eat this miracle substance only found in a tiny quadrant of the Amazon which your body is clearly lacking to change your life NOW!) And indeed, "Antioxidants" seem to always be a cool kid on the block. Thankfully, they're actually sort of a big deal, rather than a commercial fad.

Ya see, free radicals (another popular HEALTH! term) are substances in our body which react with cell membranes and cause cellular, oxidative damage. They can come from food and the environment, although the body can also willingly produce them to fight nasty invaders. We're equipped to handle free radicals via antioxidants, which can negate these reactive oxygen species, and help repair damaged cells. If free radicals are equally balanced by antioxidants, everything is dandy. But in today's modern world rampant in oxidative buggers, that's often not the case, and our bodies easily enter states of oxidative stress, as too many free radicals wear down the body's fats, proteins, and even DNA, encouraging disease and aging. {Sigh}

As it turns out, red wine is pretty rich in polyphenols and other phenolic compounds which function as antioxidants. Yey! While a multitude of studies have shown red wine's antioxidant benefits, let's look at a specific one, shall we?

A 2007 randomized controlled crossover study published in Nutrition Journal aimed to evaluate red wine's effects on various markers of oxidative stress in the blood. These included glutathione (a super important compound in the body which functions in part as an antioxidant), malondialdehyde (a super toxic byproduct formed when polyunsatruated fats in cell membrane oxidize, insinuating overall radical damage in cell fats), as well as the total antioxidant status in the blood. To do this, 40 subjects (half between 18 and 30, and half over age 50) were divided into two groups: one group drank 13.5 oz (about 2 glasses) of the red wine (cabernet sauvignon) per day, while the other half drank none, for two weeks. The groups then switched and did the opposite (that's the "crossover" part). During the trial, the participants followed their normal diet and exercise routine, and abstained from any other grape-related food or drink.

The study found that red wine did basically everything you'd want for antioxidant status! Specifically:

  • red wine significantly increased total antioxidant status (7% in the young, 16% in the old)
  • red wine significantly decreased the toxic malondialdehyde
  • red wine significantly decreased glutathione (55% in the young, 44% in the old)

But wait, why is decreased "good" glutathione in the body seen as a good thing here? Because it's a sign the participant's bodies were needing less of it, since the red wine antioxidants were likely combating free radicals. Think of it like band-aids: sure band-aids are good, but having less of them around indicates there may be less injuries needing band-aids in the first place.

The study concluded drinking red wine consistently may "significantly enhance total antioxidant status" and provide "general oxidative protection... via the increase in antioxidant status." Interestingly, the red wine overall bore more beneficial effects in the older group than the younger - which I take to mean you're never too old for a nightly glass of red!

WEDNESDAY: BURN FAT

red wine weight loss

As you've likely figured out by now, I'm all about the science of fat burning, and using fat as fuel. People often assume alcohol stops fat burning, which actually isn't the case. Alcohol itself is not easily stored as fat, as the conversion process from alcohol to fat storage is simply too complicated and unnecessary from the body's perspective. This can explain in part why controlled hospital ward studies find that adding pure alcohol to one's diet does not instigate weight gain. For more on all that, check out one of my earlier posts, Can You Have Your Drink and Drink it Too?.

But I'm not talking about not gaining fat from alcohol, instead let's take it one step further: wine's ability to potentially encourage fat burning. Oh hey! From a broad perspective, drinking red wine may instigate whole body effects which encourage weight loss, such as insulin regulation, mediation of metabolic syndrome, and disease prevention. But on a more acutely applicable perspective, specific compounds in wine may specifically encourage fat burning on a cellular level!

For starters, there's the obvious biggie, resveratrol. In a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Obesity, mice that were fed the equivalent amount of resveratrol in 12 oz of grapes per day, gained a shocking 40% less weight than mice not given the compound. Resveratrol apparently actually changed the mice's stubborn "white" fat, to more active "beige/brown" fat, which actually encourages the body to burn fat! Resveratrol also encouraged genes which support increased fatty acid use. Other studies have shown resveratrol may activate sirtuin genes in the body which mimic some of the beneficial effects of calorie restriction, and may help prevent obesity. (Check out Saturday for more on that!)

Resveratrol alone is likely not the only polyphenol in wine which can produce this effect. For example, a 2011 in vitro Purdue study found that the wine compound piceatannol actually slows or even completely prevents baby fat cells from growing! Piceatannol apparently does this by altering the genes of the fat cells and blocking insulin's effect necessary for fat cell growth.

Beyond polyphenols, other compounds in wine may encourage a leaner state. Consider ellagic acid which is present in muscadine grapes and, more applicably, oak-aged wines. In an Oregon State University in vitro study, Ellagic acid intensely slowed down fat cell growth, discouraged new fat cell formation, and boosted the metabolism of fatty acids within cells.

The takeaway? Not only does alcohol not automatically make you gain weight, but a glass or two of wine may encourage fat burning-fat, unlock your cells fat burning potential, and even discourage the growth of new fat cells!

THURSDAY: LOVE YOUR HEART

cardiovascular health wine

In a multitude of both observational and controlled studies, wine is consistently associated with favorable biomarkers for heart health and prevention of cardiovascular disease (CVD): the number one cause of mortality leading to a whopping 1/3 of deaths around the globe. Drinking red wine may help prevent CVD by increasing antioxidant status, discouraging oxidative stress (see Tuesday!), increasing "good" HDL cholesterol, decreasing blood clots, reducing blood pressure, and aiding the functioning of the blood vessels. Even non-alcoholized red wine has been shown to protect the heart, thanks to compounds like flavonoids, polyphenols, quercetin and resveratrol, which boast numerous cardio-protective activities.

For example, an October 2015 long-term randomized, controlled trial in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that a nightly glass of red wine substantially benefited the cholesterol levels and the heart in people particularly predisposed to such issues: those with type 2 diabetes. In the study, 224 non-drinkers with controlled type 2 diabetes drank either a nightly glass (5 oz) of mineral water with diner, a nightly glass of red wine, or a nightly glass of white wine with dinner, for 2 years. The participants followed a Mediterranean diet with no calorie restriction.

The results? Red wine increased beneficial HDL cholesterol, with a more favorable ratio than the water group, and also significantly dropped factors for metabolic syndrome. (White wine and water did not provide these effects). Wine also increased reported sleep quality, and did not notably affect liver function, blood pressure, body fat, or "quality of life."

As concluded in the 2010 journal review Red wine: A drink to your heart, which analyzed red wine's affects on heart disease, "Red wine contains antioxidative components like resveratrol, proanthocyanidine, quercetin, etc. and these active components exert protective functions like free radical scavenging effects, decreasing the oxidative stress and reducing the inflammatory atherosclerotic lesion in both animals and humans... From these findings, it has been concluded that red wine as a diet supplement might be beneficial for cardiovascular risk factors."

FRIDAY: INCREASE SEX APPEAL

pinot noir sex scent

I've always associated romance with red wine. If a guy answers the "favorite drink" question with say, Cabernet or Tempranillo, my ears definitely perk up. I've harbor a particular fancy for Pinot Noir, finding it undeniably the sexiest of the rouge varietals. Common to the appellations of Burgundy (oh hey France!), Pinot Noir is known for its smooth, luscious mouthfeel and sweet red fruit flavors, with a kick of spice. I could probably just say "Pinot noir makes you look sexy" and leave it at that. But as it turns out, there's a scientific reason Pinot Noir = sex in a glass.

As it turns out, some of the aromas specific to Pinot Noir (like its spicy earth and musk tones) actually mimc the scents naturally produced in the male pheromone androstenone, which is used to attract mating partners. As it goes, the olfactory bulb in our nose detects these scents and feeds them into our brain's frontal lobes, before other conscious senses register. This means smelling androstenone (or Pinot Noir!) can greenlight our sex drive, without us even realizing it.

So if you're a guy and want to attract the ladies, you can up your evolutionary sex appeal by drinking some Pinot. (I realize this example only goes one way - since Pinot Noir mimics the male, and not female, pheromone. Oh well. Pinot Noir just makes me feel sexy yet classy anyway, so it's all good!)

SATURDAY: LIVE LONGER

red wine live long

Do you wish your (work) week was short, but your years long? Well, wine can definitly help you out with that! While studies are at times conflicting, many correlational studies find moderate alcohol intake associates with increased longevity. As noted in the 2014 Mediterranean Way of Drinking and Longevity review, "In most studies the relation between alcohol consumption and mortality is a J-shaped curve which shows that moderate consumption of alcohol reduces mortality as compared to the absence of alcohol consumption."

In these findings, the maximum beneficial amount of alcohol caps at about 20 grams of pure alcohol, which equates to around 1.5 glasses of wine. Super interestingly (at least to me), studies suggest that to equal the "risk" of death of not drinking, you need to drink 72 grams of pure alcohol pure day, equivalent to around 5 glasses of wine! To reap detrimental effects on longevity, you need to drink 89 grams of pure alcohol, equivalent to around 6.3 glasses of wine.

Worst case scenario, alcohol absence does not seem to correlate to increased longevity, as discussed in a 2016 meta analysis of 87 studies of alcohol's relationship to mortality (encompassing 3,998,626 people and 367,103 recorded deaths.) While it found that moderate drinking of alcohol did not consistently reduce mortality, neither did abstaining.

Of course, the aforementioned studies involve pure alcohol's effects on longevity, and the holistic longevity boosting effects of red wine go far beyond that! Red wine's longevity support may be due to a numerous factors, many of which have been previously discussed, such as its antioxidant potential, cholesterol regulation and cardiovascular disease prevention. Resveratrol found in red wine specifically has been shown to discourage inflammation, degenerative disease, and cancer, while boosting longevity. Interestingly, resveratrol can serve as both an antioxidant to combat free radials, but also as an oxidant to help thwart cancerous cells. Yey!

Another key factor in the red wine longevity world may be resveratrol's ability to up regulate longevity-promoting genes typically only activated by calorie restriction. As first explored in a 2003 Harvard study, and a decade later in a follow-up 2013 study, resveratrol in red wine may activate sirtuins involved in the metabolism, apotosis (programmed cell death), DNA restoration, inflammation, brain protection, and "good" aging. We humans have got 7 sirtuins, but SIRT1 seems to be the golden one activated by resveratrol.

All that said, there are just so many potential protective compounds in red wine, its hard to isolate any one compound as the fountain of youth. Beyond reserveratrol, red wine has got things like phenolic compounds (which create wine's red hues, and influence its flavor and tannic effect), flavanols (like quercetin, myricetin, and kaempferol), anthocyanins, catechins, epicatechins, and phenolic acids (like gallic acid, caftaric acid, caffeic, caftaric, and gaslliacid). This is a primary reason why I believe consuming resveratrol and other protective plant compounds in their whole form of wine, is likely far more beneficial than consuming isolated, concentrated amounts as a supplement.

SUNDAY: WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?

red wine spirituality

It's rare I delve into any political or religious waters on here, but I just gotta say, regardless of your religious background, Jesus was a pretty cool guy. He was basically love everyone, judge no one, be a good person, forgive others. He also fasted (yey!), supported outcasts and women (yey!), and oh yeah, seemed to be quite the wine fan. Jesus's first (not second! not third!) miracle was turning water into wine, at a wedding in Cana. (Please see: John 2:1-12) Jesus saved the day when the wine ran out (gasp!) and he turned water into wine. While we don't know if he actually drank the wine himself, we can at least assume he did not condemn drinking it. (Sidenote: we also learn a solid go-to rule to capitalize wine consumption at large gatherings without ruining your budget: serve the good stuff FIRST, then the cheap stuff later. That said, Jesus apparently generously surpassed this rule by making some fancy wine for round two. As the wedding master says in John 2:10: "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” )

And of course, for his last supper, he chose wine as his drink of choice. If it's good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me! (I realize this invites criqiutes of Jesus's use of bread in the Last Supper. I believe I shall save bread and the Bible for another post, when I have the energy and courage to tackle the sticky issue.)

All that said, drinking wine does not equate to alcohol abuse, which Jesus does not advocate. But just as you can eat food without being a glutton, or appreciate someone's work without being prideful, or find someone beautiful without lusting, so too do I believe you can drink wine without drunkenness. That's pretty much key here: wisely embracing the benefits of wine, without causing damage from excess.

FINAL THOUGHTS

SUPPLEMENTATION

All this said, why drink wine, when you can just get the benefits from a pill? Indeed, critics of red wine's health benefits often point to the seemingly large amounts of wine needed to provide benefit (due to study formats), advocating instead for supplementation with the various compounds (such as resveratrol) in concentrated pill form. But here's the thing: we just don't know the exact mechanism by which these compounds actually work. It is quite likely they function synergistically in junction with other compounds in wine, may not even work in pure form, or perhaps may even do damage! I typically shy away from supplements and "vitamins" for this very reason. Just because something works in whole foods form, does not mean it will necessarily work in a stripped-down, adulterated form. Slamming your system with pure antioxidants, for example, may unnecessarily down-regulate its own production of them. On the contrary, consuming antioxidants in whole food form makes such a reaction extremely unlikely.

It's sort of like career success in life. If you ask a super rich person the key to their success, they're unlikely to point to any one isolated thing. If that was the case, anyone should theoretically be able to become massively rich over night. On the contrary, one's overall life - with all its combined components - is key. Which brings us to...

CAUSATION OR CORRELATION?

Another argument against red wine for health, is that perhaps the findings are simply correlational, rather than causational. After all, wine drinkers tend to naturally follow healthier diets, engage in exercise, and maintain social relationships. So perhaps it's not the wine per se, maybe it's just everything else.

To which I response: Awesome! This further goes to show wine can hold a healthy place in a healthy lifestyle. I suggest drinking wine not necessarily to "be healthy," but rather to enliven and support an already healthy, wonderful life. If can definitely have your drink and drink it too, while experiencing benefits along the way, why not indulge?

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