So Is Red Wine Healthy Or Not?

Here's the bottom line.
Juan Moyano / 

The Final Word gives you a concise take on a complicated issue. For more context, read the full story.

You’re standing in line at the store, scrolling down your feed when you see a post about the benefits of drinking red wine. An alcoholic beverage that’s actually good for you? Sold. You don’t even need to read the story. And anyway, you know red wine is heart-healthy—that party line spills from your aunt’s merlot-stained mouth every Thanksgiving after someone comments on her third glass. Before you leave check-out to grab ten bottles, though, read the story. Read all the stories. Or at least just read this.


What you’ve heard:
One week you read that wine is healthy for you. The next week you read it's not. You’re beginning to suspect people just like doing wine studies.

What the research says:
Studies have suggested that drinking wine might be associated with: raising good cholesterol, improving insulin sensitivity (which can lower risk of diabetes), reducing heart attack and stroke risk, and, most compellingly, reducing the risk of an early death. It’s worth noting that a lot of this research pertains to drinking a moderate amount of any type of alcohol, not just wine, though red wine does appear to have the most positive associations in the research done so far.

Before you get too excited, there is other research that paints a far less rosy picture—like a 2016 meta-analysis that suggests a drink a day can actually increase your risk of an early death. Further, scientists are as yet unable to identify what it is exactly about alcohol that could be having positive health effects. So it’s far from a foregone conclusion that it’s good for you.

One last downer note (sorry): Alcohol is pretty clearly not great for cancer risk. Even moderate drinking has been linked to increased risk, so if you have cancer in your family, or know you’re susceptible for another reason (say, because you’re a smoker), you could be adding to the danger with even just a moderate amount of drinking.

So is red wine good for you?
It's possible, but far from certain, that you could get some health benefits from moderate drinking. This amounts to about one drink a day for women and two for men; a “drink” is considered to be 12 ounces of 5 percent ABV beer, 5 ounces of 12 percent ABV wine, or 1 ounce of 40 percent ABV liquor. If you like all kinds of alcohol, red wine does appear to have the most data in favor of its health benefits. But if you like other stuff better, or if you’re not a drinker to begin with, there’s not enough clear evidence to warrant a change in your habits. Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of Tonic delivered to your inbox weekly.