There’s More Than Science to Why Wine May be Good for the Heart

Since February is American Heart Month, I thought it might be an appropriate time to discuss why wine is considered good for the heart.

I would never suggest to someone who doesn’t drink wine to start drinking wine because it’s good for the heart, but if you’re someone who enjoys wine, it helps to know there may be some beneficial effects.

First, let’s look at a brief history of wine for medicinal purposes…

Evidence suggests wine had been around since 6,000 B.C. and that it has been used for medicinal purposes since 2,200B.C. It was used as an “antiseptic and painkiller, as well as to treat dermatological conditions and digestive disorders” (as cited by Guilford and Pezzuto, 2011).

There are 191 references to wine throughout both the Old and New Testament suggesting it was used as medicine.

Priest used wine to heal the sick, but it was considered “divine” intervention at that point because it wasn’t until Hippocrates (460-377B.C.) that medicine practice was considered a profession (Strauss, 1979).

In 1954 Salvatore Lucia wrote the book Wine as Food, as well as Medicine and History of Wine as Therapy in 1963, and the first Proceedings of the First International Symposium of Wine and Health was held in Menlo Park, California in 1968.

But it was the French Paradox in 1991 that elevated wine to ‘heart-healthy’ status in the minds of Americans. 60 Minutes reported a research study had found the reason the French had a low incidence of heart disease, despite a diet high in saturated fat, was due to the red wine they drink with most meals. Researchers attributed this to the polyphenol substance in wine called resveratrol, which helps reduce the build-up of cholesterol in the arteries.  It appears to achieve this by increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) in your veins, which helps remove the LDL or “bad cholesterol”.  This can help lower one’s risk for developing arteriosclerosis and hypertension.

Since this initial study, substantial more research is still analyzing the impact of wine on cardiovascular health, as well as overall health. Of course, moderation is the key to a healthful impact versus a detrimental effect.

It is valuable to mention the lifestyle component that accompanies sipping a glass of wine. If we take time to sip wine, it typically means we are taking time to pause…ideally to dine and connect with a loved one. In fact, the Blue Zones Power 9 includes “Wine at 5”.

Cheers to well-being!