Harvard Men's Health Watch

Medical memo: Grape juice for health?

Medical memo

Grape juice for health?

Alcohol is far from a health food. Excessive drinking is a major cause of death and disability from liver disease, certain cancers, accidents, and neurological disease, not to mention psychosocial woes and other problems. But in modest amounts, alcohol appears beneficial, largely because moderate drinking is linked to a reduced risk of heart attacks and certain types of strokes. The best "dose" for men appears to be 15 to 30 grams of alcohol a day. That's the amount in one to two drinks, counting 1½ ounces of liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine as one drink.

How does moderate drinking help? The major benefit is to boost blood levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Alcohol also appears to reduce inflammation, increase insulin sensitivity, and fight harmful blood clots.

Men who drink to their health often favor red wine. In theory, it's the best choice. Red wine contains polyphenols and other flavonoids, antioxidant chemicals that improve the function of the endothelial cells that help regulate blood flow through arteries. Red wine also contains resveratrol. Harvard researchers helped put this chemical on the map when they showed that very high doses could protect mice from diet-induced obesity and aging. And in one human study, red wine appeared to reduce the risk of prostate cancer.

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