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Wine and heart health

Alternative Names

Health and wine


There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. More studies are being done on the possible benefits wine (particularly red wine) may have on heart disease. However, it is a controversial topic.

There is some evidence that people who drink moderately may be less likely to develop heart disease than those who do not drink at all. However, drinking alcohol has been linked to:

Alcohol abuse is associated with cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Colon
  • Mouth
  • Rectum
  • Throat (pharynx)
  • Voice box (larynx)

In addition, although some studies suggest that alcohol may raise the good kind of cholesterol (HDL), it also raises a type of fat in the blood (triglycerides).

The American Heart Association and other experts say there are much more effective ways to prevent heart disease, including:

  • Controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Exercising and following a low-fat, healthy diet
  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a normal weight

These tried and true methods have much more scientific proof supporting them than does drinking moderate amounts of alcohol. Furthermore, the benefits suggested by some of the studies on alcohol are likely due to other factors such as:

  • A diet high in fruits and vegetables
  • Antioxidants found in red wine called flavonoids (which are also found in other foods such as grapes and red grape juice)
  • More physical activity in countries that drink wine regularly

There is also a substance in alcohol known as resveratrol, which may reduce blood clot formation. However, taking aspirin following your doctor's instructions is a more standard method for lowering your chances of developing a blood clot if you are at risk for heart disease or stroke. Note: You should NOT drink alcohol if you take aspirin regularly.

Women should have no more than 1 drink per day. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day. A drink is defined as:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of liquor or 80-proof spirits

Even light drinking can lead to addiction. Pregnant women need to avoid alcohol consumption altogether because it can cause serious birth defects.

See also: Alcohol and diet


Lichtenstein AH, Appel LJ, Brands M, et al. Diet and lifestyle recommendations revision 2006: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee. Circulation. 2006;114:82-96.

Hvidtfeldt UA, Tolstrup JS, Jakobsen MU, et al. Alcohol Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Younger, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults. Circulation. 2010;121:1589-1597.

Review Date: 5/10/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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