The next time you raise a glass of wine to toast a friend's health, you may be doing more than expressing goodwill. A great number of studies have been done to determine the therapeutic and disease-fighting powers of wine, both red and white. While some of the studies cited below are more conclusive than others, each of them offers a good reason to make wine part of daily life. Here are 10 of the most compelling findings.
1 Wine may prolong your life. In 1997 Michael Thun, M.D., and his colleagues at the American Cancer Society tallied the health-related pros and cons of alcohol consumption and found that one or two drinks a day over a nine-year period reduced a person's risk of death by 20 percent. "The lower mortality rates were driven primarily by a lower rate of cardiovascular disease and stroke," Dr. Thun explains. Moreover, in a French study published in 1998 involving more than 34,000 middle-aged men, the group that consumed a generous two to five glasses of wine a day had a 24 to 31 percent reduction in the overall death rate during the 10- and 15-year follow-up periods.
2 Wine decreases your risk of heart disease. In the past decade, more than a dozen studies have indicated that the consumption of up to one glass of wine or beer or one mixed drink a day for women and up to two a day for men may reduce the risk of heart disease by as much as 50 percent. Researchers found that this level of wine consumption raises HDL cholesterol (the good kind, which prevents fatty deposits from building up in artery walls) and inhibits the formation of blood clots. It also enhances the factors that help break up blood clots when they form, according to Mary Ann Malloy, M.D., a spokesperson for the American Heart Association and a cardiologist at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Maywood, Illinois. Additionally, recent research suggests that consuming wine with meals helps reduce the proliferation of smooth muscle cells inside the arteries, thereby preventing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).