Background: Alcohol has been an integral part of the diets of many cultures for thousands of years, and formed the basis of early antiseptics. However, many health professionals have been loath to recommend its moderate consumption. Fears of increased risks of cancers, strokes and coronary heart disease (CHD), as well as its role in accidents, violence, psychological and social decline (when consumed in excess) meant that alcohol was viewed as generally detrimental to health. Recent reports have examined some of these fears and suggest that the moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, particularly red wine, may actually protect against the development of CHD. Evidence for the influence of alcoholic drinks on strokes and cancer is less clear.
Objectives: This review discusses the chemical differences between red wine and other alcoholic beverages and their possible effects on the development of CHD, stroke and cancer.
Data synthesis and conclusions: Both clinical and experimental evidence suggest that red wine does indeed offer a greater protection to health than other alcoholic beverages. This protection has been attributed to grape-derived antioxidant polyphenolic compounds found particularly in red wine.