Although it is clearly established that the abuse of alcohol is seriously harmful to health, much epidemiological and clinical evidence seem to underline the protective role of moderate quantities of alcohol and in particular of wine on health. This narrative review aims to re-evaluate the relationship between the type and dose of alcoholic drink and reduced or increased risk of various diseases, in the light of the most current scientific evidence. In particular, in vitro studies on the modulation of biochemical pathways and gene expression of wine bioactive components were evaluated. Twenty-four studies were selected after PubMed, Scopus and Google Scholar searches for the evaluation of moderate alcohol/wine consumption and health effects: eight studies concerned cardiovascular diseases, three concerned type 2 diabetes, four concerned neurodegenerative diseases, five concerned cancer and four were related to longevity. A brief discussion on viticultural and enological practices potentially affecting the content of bioactive components in wine is included. The analysis clearly indicates that wine differs from other alcoholic beverages and its moderate consumption not only does not increase the risk of chronic degenerative diseases but is also associated with health benefits particularly when included in a Mediterranean diet model. Obviously, every effort must be made to promote behavioral education to prevent abuse, especially among young people.
Keywords: Mediterranean diet; alcohol consumption; grape polyphenols; resveratrol; wine consumption.