You’ve heard about a glass of red wine being chock full of antioxidants, but what does that really mean in terms of health? According to several studies, the health benefits of red wine include weight loss, lowered cholesterol, and even an improved sex life.
The secret ingredient is a seemingly magic substance called resveratrol; here’s how it works.
Health Benefits of Red Wine for Weight Loss
Resveratrol doesn’t exactly burn fat, but it does contribute to weight loss in one intriguing way. According to a Washington State University study, red wine can help convert “white fat” into “beige fat,” one of three different types of fat stored in the human body.
Whereas white fat is stockpiled in the body and can lead to disease, brown fat burns lipids to produce heat; it's particularly present in animals that cannot shiver, to keep them warm, but studies have shown that humans have a bit of brown fat too, and this fat can help us burn more harmful lipids.
“The current theory is that when we eat excessively, the extra lipids are stored in white fat,” explains WSU professor of animal sciences Min Du. “With obesity, the fat cells enlarge to a point where they’re saturated and can’t uptake more lipids.” This can lead to insulin resistance and diabetes.
Beige fat – somewhere in between – is generated when white fat is “browned” or converted, a process that is enhanced by resveratrol.
By “browning” the excess white fat into beige fat, the oxidation of the fat is enhanced, and the excess is burned off as heat.
Health Benefits of Red Wine for a Better Sex Life
Red wine can also improve your sex life, and not only because alcohol can lower inhibitions.
A recent study from the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England showed that the flavonoids present in red wine can improve sex life by help reduce the risk of men developing erectile dysfunction.
In this case, it wasn’t just resveratrol, but also anthocyanins, flavanones and flavones, all of which are present in red and purple foods, including red wine, that had the beneficial attributes.
Health Benefits of Red Wine for Cholesterol
According to the Mayo Clinic, the combination of reverastrol, polyphenols, and even alcohol in red wine increase levels of HDL cholesterol, preventing against artery damage and blood clots and lowering bad cholesterol levels.
While no studies on humans have proven these hypotheses to date, studies carried out on mice have shown that resverastrol may help prevent obesity and diabetes, two risk factors for heart disease, and research on pigs has shown that resveratrol can help increase the body’s ability to use insulin.
Not Just Wine
But wine is not the only – or really, the most efficient – way of reaping the benefits of resveratrol.
The WSU study, for example, used amounts of resveratrol that are equivalent to 12 ounces of fruit per day for humans, an amount that helped the mice in the study gain about 40 percent less weight than control mice. While this is a manageable amount of fruit to consume in a day, red wines only contain a fraction of the resveratrol, and would need to be consumed in much larger quantities than are healthy to reap these particular benefits.
“Many of the beneficial polyphenols are insoluble and get filtered out during the wine production process,” says Du.
So while there’s no need to feel guilty about the occasional glass of red wine or two, the real way to take full advantage of these benefits is to pay attention to your fruit consumption. Du suggests two to three servings a day for a total of twelve ounces, with a concentration on red and purple fruits, like berries, as well as citrus, which contain the antioxidants and polyphenols you need.
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