Red Wine: Superfood or Poison?

Make this double-agent drink work for you, not against you.

December 4, 2014
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Your wine-loving friends swear by the health benefits of red wine, while your dry friends tell you to avoid it like the plague. So which view is correct? The answer may be both, because red wine can both prevent and cause cancer, according to research published in Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology.

The secret of its double-agent status is its weird combination of alcohol and resveratrol. "Alcohol damages cells, and resveratrol kills damaged cells," says Robert Sclafani, PhD, researcher at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics.

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"Alcohol bombards your genes. With enough alcohol, eventually, some damage isn't fixed," he explains. "That's why excessive alcohol use is a factor in head and neck cancer. Now, resveratrol challenges these cells—the ones with unrepaired DNA damage are killed, so they can't go on to cause cancer."

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David Zulberg, author of The 5 Skinny Habits, also points out that wine has plenty of other benefits, in addition to helping to prevent cancer. "Wine has five terrific benefits that stand out when it is consumed correctly: heart health, disease prevention, fewer colds, weight loss, and mood and brain enhancement," he says.

So what is "correct" consumption? Though the definition of moderate drinking is two drinks for men and one drink for women, Zulberg recommends keeping it to just one glass (5 ounces) a day enjoyed with your biggest meal. "One glass a day for both men and women is sufficient to gain the health benefits of wine and avoid the potential harmful effects of excess alcohol consumption," he says.