Although it is clear that alcohol abuse is quite harmful to health, many studies have shown the protective role of moderate amounts of wine for the body. This is justified because of the large amount of bioactive compounds (anthocyanins, flavones, flavonoids, flavonols, alkylphenols, tyrossols, phenolic acids, lignins, stilbenes) that presents in its composition.
These bioactive compounds of wine are often defined as molecules capable of protecting the body against a variety of damage related to the stress modulating intracellular signaling pathways that lead to inhibition of the synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules, formation of free radicals and nuclear damage, and inducing the expression of the antioxidant enzyme gene.
Action of phytochemicals present in wine
Resveratrol is the most studied and best known stilbene, has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-aging and anti-carcinogenic properties. Meanwhile, the production of grapes and wines with high Resveratrol content depends on the quality of all its manufacture. As a rule, the higher the concentration of grapes, the higher the concentration of resveratrol in wine. In addition, it is more present in red wines compared to white wines.
As with most phytochemicals, in order to clearly define their potential health impact, it is essential to define their absorption rate and metabolism. The absorption rate of resveratrol is approximately 75% (oral dose of 25 mg), but bioavailability is weak. Resveratrol is rapidly metabolized and absorbed through the gastrointestinal tract.
In this way, resveratrol cannot be considered solely responsible for the benefits associated with moderate red wine consumption, but these effects are attributable to the entire set of antioxidants present that have been shown to neutralize oxidative stress by activating the Nrf2 pathway and regulating a number of antioxidant enzymes that are crucial for the prevention of chronic/degenerative diseases.
However, wine provides alcohol to the diet. And alcohol, even at low consumption, can have harmful effects on health, its chronic consumption is related to non-communicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis and cancer. During your metabolism, alcohol is oxidized to acetaldehyde, reactive substance with high toxicity capacity, being able to interact directly with proteins, lipids and DNA and therefore becomes so worrisome. Nevertheless red wine resveratrol and flavonoids modulate the expression of enzymes that directly participate in acetaldehyde detoxification.
The alcohol content of the wine varies between 11% and 14%, being much lower than that of spirits (about 35%). In addition, the concentration of polyphenolic compounds in distilled beverages are practically negligible.
The impact of lifestyle and eating pattern
Bioactive components are not the only reason for the beneficial effects associated with wine consumption; social factors are also important. The Mediterranean diet was voted the best in 2023 and this dietary model suggests moderate wine consumption during meals. When consumed during meals, wine tends to be drunk more slowly than other alcoholic beverages, which can provide metabolic benefits. Furthermore, the presence of food in the stomach slows the absorption of ethanol, helping metabolism and liver detoxification, and lowering the peak of the concentration of alcohol in the blood.
The presence of food can also reduce the amount of alcohol available for the oral microbiota, which has the ability to metabolize acetaldehyde ethanol. Furthermore, the presence of alcohol can improve the bioavailability of polyphenols in food bolus, making them more assimilated and may reduce glucose bioaccessibility, which is consistent with the hypoglycemic effects observed in the studies.
When thinking about whether wine is good for health, there is strong scientific evidence from Mediterranean and non-Mediterranean countries that moderate wine consumption increases longevity, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease and does not influence the overall risk of cancer, although it is necessary to stress that not drinking alcohol is better in all aspects for health. In this way, Health professionals should not recommend alcohol to non-drinkers and furthermore it is important to promote behavioural education to prevent abuse, especially among young people.
Study suggestion: Mediterranean
diet was voted best of the year in 2023 – Science Play
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Article: Hrelia S, Di Renzo L, Bavaresco L, Bernardi E, Malaguti M, Giacosa A. Moderate Wine Consumption and Health: A Narrative Review. Nutrients
. 2023; 15(1):175. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu15010175