Let’s face it: The Middle Ages were filled with drunkards, young and old. Just think about any film/TV show that seems to take place during the time period and you’ll surely remember one guy — or child — demanding “wine!” It was nothing close to how it is now, though, and resembled week-old vinegary wine, more than anything. However, with water and milk full of diseases, the swill was the only thing guaranteed to be bacteria-free (except in a recent Game of Thrones episode). Wine started becoming what it is today sometime during the Renaissance, and has since become popular for more than the fact that it’s still free of disease. And besides its now-delicious taste, it provides some pretty decent health benefits to those who drink it.
At only about 100 to 150 calories, and about 5 grams of carbs, wine’s already on the healthier side of alcoholic drinks. But besides helping your waist stay thin, it can also help you fight off chronic diseases and aging, thanks to high concentrations of an antioxidant in grapes called resveratrol — other foods rich in the compound include blueberries, cranberries, and peanuts. The Scripps Research Institute in Florida recently found that resveratrol is processed in the body by binding to estrogen receptors without stimulating them to reproduce.
Together, the two work as anti-inflammatory agents within the body, the Scripps researchers said, reducing the risk of heart disease. Resveratrol has also been shown to reduce concentrations of the bad type of cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, LDL) in blood vessels throughout the body, suggesting high blood pressure may not be such an issue, depending on the rest of your lifestyle. But, almost like one of Oprah’s “favorite things” episodes (you can start crying now), it doesn’t stop there. The antioxidant has also been linked to a reduced risk of cancer and diabetes — it improves insulin sensitivity and blood glucose regulation — all while slowing the aging process (surely a result of its heart-protecting benefits).
Resveratrol — the antioxidant that keeps on giving — and another antioxidant compound known as quercetin, have also been shown to benefit the brain. A study from last August found that drinking wine could lower the risk for depression. While that sounds like something you’d expect to hear from someone sitting at the local bar at 1 p.m. on a Wednesday, there is evidence that both resveratrol and quercetin can suppress expression of C-reactive protein (CRP), which has been shown to cause inflammation. It turns out that people with higher CRP levels are also more likely to exhibit depressive symptoms.
More people seem to be getting on the wine bandwagon lately. Gallup’s latest annual Consumption Habits poll, released last August, found that 35 percent of Americans favored wine, compared to 36 percent of Americans who said they like beer more. In 1992, 47 percent of the nation preferred beer while only 27 percent favored wine.
It’s definitely a good thing, but moderation is key. For the August study on depression, researchers defined light to moderate drinking as five to 15 grams of alcohol each day. The National Institutes of Health says that moderation means that “the drinking is not getting you intoxicated or drunk.” In other words, no more than one drink for women and two drinks for men, each day. Drinking a glass or two with dinner, therefore, shouldn’t be a problem.