“There’s certainly some evidence suggesting that a small amount of red wine can be beneficial to heart health,” says Joel Feren, director of Hearty Nutrition and member of the Dietitian’s Association of Australia. “Studies show that it may improve vascular health – the state of our blood vessels.”
Researchers are divided on the topic. Red wine contains antioxidants and resveratrol, a chemical that may prevent damage to blood vessels and lower ‘bad’ cholesterol. Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes, so red wine (which is fermented with the skin on for longer) contains more of it than white.
But while some research in the past suggested small amounts of red wine may prevent some cancers, the UK government has performed a U-turn on its stance on red wine (and alcohol in general), underlining its threat to our health. Under updated guidelines, drinkers are recommended to take a two-day break each week to let their livers recover.
“A little bit has some health benefits,” says Joel, “but too much may potentially cause heart disease, issues with mental illness, and even high blood pressure. The recommendation [in New Zealand] at the moment is no more than two standard drinks per day.”
But contrary to what the Brits are saying, a Harvard study concluded that having up to six alcoholic drinks a week doesn’t, in fact, pose a long-term risk of heart attack or stroke.
“What we’re dealing with at the moment is that we know there is some benefit,” says Joel, “but there’s more research to be done until we can say, ‘Yes this is a fantastic thing that we all should be having in our diets.’”