An impressive body of evidence shows that red wine in moderation may be good for circulation and general heart health. But you can get similar antioxidant compounds — and perhaps the same benefits — from nonalcoholic sources too, and alcohol can cause serious interactions with some medications.
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Although scientists have observed a correlation between moderate amounts of red wine and improved cardiovascular health, they're not entirely sure of the cause — and drinking too much wine or mixing alcohol and blood thinners poses problems.
Red Wine for Circulation
When taken to excess, red wine — just like any other type of alcohol — can cause serious health problems. But a well-established body of evidence shows that when you drink it in moderate amounts, red wine may in fact be good for your heart.
A literature review published in the October 2019 issue of Molecules notes that red wine's positive effects on your cardiovascular health are usually attributed to its polyphenolic compounds — in particular, the powerful antioxidant resveratrol. However, the researchers warn that more research is needed to understand exactly what's happening at the molecular level here.
The American Heart Association (AHA) weighs in on this topic too, observing that no research has proven a definite cause-and-effect link between alcohol and better heart health; after all, correlation is not the same as causation. And you can get the same antioxidant components that are present in red wine from nonalcoholic sources, such as grapes and blueberries.
Ultimately, the AHA specifically does not recommend drinking wine — or any other type of alcohol — when in search of health benefits. Instead, they encourage you to secure health benefits by managing your weight, increasing your physical activity and following a healthy diet — among other healthy choices.
Read more: 7 Surprising Health Benefits of Red Wine
Disadvantages of Red Wine
Although moderate amounts of red wine may be beneficial for your cardiovascular health overall, there are some potential disadvantages of red wine to watch out for.
The first is that if you're anemic, the very best wine for iron deficiency might be white wine. That's according to an older, one-of-a-kind in vitro study published in the February 1985 issue of the Scandinavian Journal of Haematology. The researchers added iron to both red wine and white wine and found that iron absorption was more than twice as good from white wine as it was from red wine.
Interestingly, when the researchers removed about 80 percent of the polyphenols that make red wine so good for your heart, iron absorption almost doubled.
Mixing alcohol and blood thinners can also cause serious problems. The Mayo Clinic notes that interactions with food, alcohol and other medications are particularly common if you take warfarin (Coumadin). But you should talk to your doctor about appropriate alcohol intake if you're on any sort of blood thinner — or any sort of medication at all, because alcohol can produce some unexpected interactions.
Alcohol on its own can cause problems if you drink too much. The AHA points out that if you drink alcohol to excess it can actually increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and stroke — exactly the opposite effect you might be looking for from the occasional glass of red wine. Drinking to excess also increases your risk of obesity, which poses quite a few health risks of its own.
And finally, alcohol can have an effect on your waistline too. The AHA estimates the typical calorie content of wine at 100 to 150 calories per glass. When you have a couple glasses at night or even a few glasses during a week, that can add up quickly. If you're watching your weight, keeping a food and drink diary is the best way to determine whether you can have that glass of wine without having to let your belt out a notch.
Read more: Can You Lose Weight by Drinking Red Wine?
The AHA and many other medical authorities warn that you should not drink alcohol when you're pregnant; it may cause serious, lasting harm to your child. They also note that it may be best to avoid drinking alcohol while breastfeeding.