Do Flavonoids in Red Wine Help You Live Longer?

We'd all like an elixir that makes us live a long, healthy life. And if that elixir were red wine...all the better! However (of course there's a however), although red wine might have some potential health benefits, it's far from being a cure-all. While red wine is more closely linked to health benefits than other types of alcohol, experts suggest that it should still be consumed with caution.

Waiter pouring red wine into glass
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In an effort to understand the "French Paradox'" (why French people can indulge in fatty foods but not develop heart disease), red wine came into focus in 1991 on an episode of "60 Minutes." To test whether red wine could have a protective health effect, researchers have been feeding components of red wine to mice and other animals in an attempt to understand the full health benefits.

Here's what we know about red wine and health.

Resveratrol: The Important Flavonoid in Red Wine

Red wine is high in flavonoids (also described as polyphenols), which are a type of antioxidant. Antioxidants help prevent certain molecules, known as free radicals, from damaging cells. Resveratrol is an antioxidant found in wine. It's also found in some other plant foods, including apples, blueberries, plums, and peanuts.

Research has credited resveratrol with possible protective effects against a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

Resveratrol's Role in Anti-Aging

According to research, resveratrol has several biochemical effects that may work to prevent disease. Mechanisms of resveratrol action include:

  • It activates the longevity-related protein sirtuin 1 (SIRT1)
  • It helps to improve insulin sensitivity
  • It improves the function of the mitochondria, which are tiny components of all cells that are altered with aging and disease

Red Wine vs. Calorie Restriction

Calorie restriction plays a complex role in longevity. In part, that's because calorie restriction can activate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), a protein that may spur the "longevity genes" SIRT1 and SIRT2. Resveratrol seems to act along the same pathways and it has been shown to mimic the effect of caloric restriction on the cells and lifespans of yeast, fruit flies, and mice in a laboratory setting.

Resveratrol Supplements

If you don't drink wine, you might be wondering if you should be taking resveratrol supplements as a way to gain the benefits that you have been hearing about. At the current time, experts are not recommending that approach. Overall, despite the results of laboratory studies that point to the benefits of resveratrol, it is still not completely clear whether a specific dose would be effective for fighting disease or whether taking supplements would help prevent illness in humans.

A Word From Verywell

If you drink wine or any other alcohol, you should do so in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink a day for women and two for men.

If you drink more than the recommendations for "moderate" drinking, those potential health benefits get canceled out by the health risks associated with a high consumption of alcohol.

If you don't currently drink alcohol, there is no need to start! There are many factors that play into your health—and a good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are still likely more beneficial for you than a glass of wine.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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