Is a Glass of Red Wine a Day Really Good For You?

a bottle and a glass of red wine composite

Photo Illustration by Amelia Manley for Verywell Health; Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • A new systematic review suggests that contrary to popular belief, low-level consumption of wine or any other alcohol isn't associated with a reduced risk of death.
  • Experts say red wine may play a role in supporting heart health, but other lifestyle factors associated with wine consumption could be contributing to this phenomenon.
  • Red wine is rich in antioxidants, but these can be found in other dietary sources.

We've all heard the claim that having a glass of red wine every night is the secret to living longer, but is red wine really healthy? Researchers continue to debate this age-old question, and there are studies to support both sides of the argument.

Some studies found that red wine consumed in moderation may reduce heart disease risks and protect against cognitive decline. But a new systematic review published in the journal JAMA Network Open suggests that “moderate” drinkers do not have a lower risk of death than non-drinkers.

The new study didn't focus only on red wine consumption, but health benefits from any low-volume alcohol use are "highly questionable," according to Jinhui Zhao, PhD, a co-author of the study and a scientist at the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research.

"The main ingredient of all alcohol products—including beer, wine, and spirit—is ethanol and its metabolized product, which play the same role in causing harm on the human body," Zhao told Verywell in an email.

Krishna G. Aragam, MD, MS, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital who co-authored an alcohol study in 2022, found that any consumption of alcohol was associated with increased heart disease risk, but the risk varied based on the amount consumed.

“For an otherwise healthy person, consuming up to one drink a day may not be helping your cause, but it may not be hurting your cause that much either,” Aragam told Verywell.

While previous studies have shown that light-to-moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with a lower heart disease risk compared to those who abstained from alcohol, the benefits were diminished or completely negated when adjusted for certain lifestyle factors, Aragam explained.

“We saw that those who consumed light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol also exhibited other favorable lifestyle variables. For example, they consumed more vegetables, were more physically active, and had lower BMI compared to abstainers,” Aragam said.

Why Do People Think Red Wine Is Healthy?

The idea that red wine is healthy took off in the 1990s when the “French paradox” was first introduced to Americans via an impactful 60 Minutes episode.

A few French epidemiologists said that although the typical French diet was high in saturated fat, the French had much lower instances of heart disease. They attributed this paradox to the Mediterranean Diet and, specifically, to moderate red wine consumption.

But some researchers argued that lifestyle factors were not controlled for in the research, which may have skewed the findings.

L. Maximilian Buja, MD, a professor of pathology and laboratory medicine in the McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, said he believes that red wine plays a role in offering health benefits but there’s more to the story.

“There’s a rationale to be made for what goes on around wine consumption—more relaxed dining, longer times to relax, less stress. So I think that contributes to the phenomenon, as well as just the alcohol itself,” Buja told Verywell.

Red wine may offer some benefits, but it’s not necessarily an elixir of life. The alcohol industry is also incentivized to promote red wine as a “healthy” drink of choice. A 2020 study published in the European Journal of Public Health found that a majority of alcohol studies were funded or supported by the alcohol industry.

Does Wine Help With Sleep?

Some people enjoy a glass of wine before bed to unwind, but a new study found no association between wine and sleep quality. Drinking wine may make you sleepy, but consuming alcohol before bed can contribute to disrupted, poor-quality sleep throughout the night.

Do Antioxidants in Red Wine Make It Healthy?

Red wine contains antioxidants from grape skin that are not found in white wine or other types of alcohol. For example, red wine is rich in resveratrol, a natural polyphenol compound that acts as antioxidants and may reduce inflammation and offer protection from cancer and heart disease. Resveratrol can also be found in peanuts, blueberries, and cranberries.

These antioxidants in red wine could outweigh the harmful effects of alcohol “with the caveat that the alcohol consumption needs to be maintained in the low-to-moderate range,” which means a glass or two per day, according to Buja.

However, some studies have also suggested that humans can’t get enough of the antioxidants from red wine for any meaningful health benefits.

“The whole area of nutrition and diet is just one ongoing, never-ending conversation and debate—and wine is just part of it,” Buja said. “Moderate consumption has biological effects, but also... tension relieving is a significant positive effect from having some moderate alcohol consumption along with meals.”

What This Means For You

Moderate amounts of red wine may offer some health benefits and can help some people relax. If you don’t already drink alcohol, it's not recommended to start drinking for the health benefits.

9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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