Can Drinking Wine Lead to High Cholesterol?

A man drinking a glass of red wine.
Image Credit: Purestock/Purestock/Getty Images

Like many things in life, drinking alcohol is fine in moderation. Cholesterol is a waxy substance that your body makes, and you can also it get from food. There is high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein -- or "good" and "bad" cholesterol. HDL cholesterol moves cholesterol to your liver, and LDL cholesterol moves it to your arteries, where it increases your risk of heart disease. Red wine contains properties that may lower your cholesterol, but drinking more than one to two glasses a day can have the opposite effect.

Alcohol Advisories

If you do not already drink alcohol, the American Heart Association does not recommend you start in order to boost your heart health. If you do drink, men are recommended to stick to two drinks per day and women one drink per day. A serving of wine is 4 ounces, according to the association. Excess alcohol is stored as triglycerides in your body and, according to the association, people with high triglyceride levels tend to have high cholesterol levels and are at an increased risk of heart disease. Drinking too much alcohol can also lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, breast cancer, suicide and accidents.


Saponin Benefits

Wine contains plant compounds called saponins. Saponins work in your body the same way in which cholesterol-lowering medications do. Bile acids typically enable cholesterol to be reabsorbed by your body. Saponins work by binding together bile acids and cholesterol and stopping cholesterol from being reabsorbed by ensuring that it is excreted from your body. Red wine has three to 10 times the amount of this plant compound compared to other wines.

Antioxidant Properties

The grapes used to make wine contain a polyphenol called resveratrol. According to a study published in 2008 in "Nutrition Research," resveratrol lowers low-density lipoproteins and stops your blood platelets from sticking together, which reduces your risk for heart disease. The Linus Pauling Institute states that research is inconsistent whether red wine is more beneficial than other forms of alcohol in protecting your heart. The institute also reports that one to two glasses of red wine doesn't provide you with enough resveratrol to protect your heart because this compound is quickly metabolized and eliminated from your body.


Wine Alternatives

Your cholesterol levels are dictated partly by your genes, age and sex, but you can make other lifestyle changes to lower bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Avoid foods high in saturated fat and trans fats, such as animal and dairy products and hydrogenated oils. Saturated fat raises your LDL cholesterol. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, being overweight increases your LDL cholesterol, but losing the weight can lower it while raising your HDL cholesterol. Get active to help you lose weight because regular physical activity has a positive effect on your cholesterol levels.