Resveratrol in grapes, supplements and other foods

The resveratrol in red wine comes from the skin of grapes used to make wine. Because red wine is fermented with grape skins longer than is white wine, red wine contains more resveratrol.

Simply eating grapes, or drinking grape juice, might be one way to get resveratrol without drinking alcohol. Red and purple grape juices may have some of the same heart-healthy benefits of red wine.

Other foods that contain some resveratrol include peanuts, blueberries and cranberries. It's not yet known how beneficial eating grapes or other foods might be compared with drinking red wine when it comes to promoting heart health. The amount of resveratrol in food and red wine can vary widely.

Resveratrol supplements also are available. Researchers haven't found any harm in taking resveratrol supplements. But your body can't absorb most of the resveratrol in the supplements.

How does alcohol help the heart?

Various studies have shown that moderate amounts of all types of alcohol benefit your heart, not just alcohol found in red wine. It's thought that alcohol:

  • Raises HDL (healthy) cholesterol
  • Reduces the formation of blood clots
  • Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of LDL (harmful) cholesterol
  • May improve the function of the layer of cells that line your blood vessels (endothelium)

Drink in moderation — or not at all

Red wine's potential heart-healthy benefits look promising. Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including red wine, seem to have a lower risk of heart disease.

However, it's important to understand that studies comparing moderate drinkers to non-drinkers might overestimate the benefits of moderate drinking because non-drinkers might already have health problems. More research is needed before we know whether red wine is better for your heart than are other forms of alcohol, such as beer or spirits.

Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Alcohol can be addictive and can cause or worsen other health problems.

Drinking too much alcohol increases your risk of:

  • Liver and pancreas diseases
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Stroke
  • Accidents, violence and suicide
  • Weight gain and obesity

Avoid alcohol completely if you:

  • Are pregnant
  • Have a personal or strong family history of alcoholism
  • Have a liver or pancreas disease associated with alcohol consumption
  • Have heart failure or a weak heart
  • Take certain medications or a daily aspirin

If you have questions about the benefits and risks of alcohol, talk to your doctor about specific recommendations for you.

If you already drink red wine, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means:

  • Up to one drink a day for women of all ages.
  • Up to one drink a day for men older than age 65.
  • Up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.

A drink is defined as:

  • 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer
  • 5 ounces (148 mL) of wine
  • 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits
Nov. 12, 2016 See more In-depth