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Wine, especially red wine, is characterized as being healthful because of the prevalence of antioxidants in the beverage. Antioxidants are generally associated with two major health benefits: decreased risk of heart disease and decreased risk of cancer. Additionally, antioxidants such as those found in wine are associated with enhanced brain function, leading to their use in preventing and treating neurodegenerative diseases.
Antioxidants are found in the skin of grapes that are pressed in the production of wine. Red wine is typically considered to have a greater presence of wine antioxidants because the grape skins are more instrumental to the red wine-making process than the white wine-making process. The health benefits of wine are commonly attributed to polyphenols, which are the antioxidants found in red wine.
Polyphenols have been studied for their connection to decreased risk of heart disease. These wine antioxidants are believed to protect the heart by preventing or reducing damage to blood vessels. One particular polyphenol called resveratrol might reduce inflammation and decrease the risk of blood clots, both of which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Apart from resveratrol, the other most prominent wine antioxidants are catechin and quercetin.
It is also believed that wine antioxidants may help prevent or even treat some forms of cancer. Free radicals in the body can cause various types of cancer, but antioxidants such as those found in wine neutralize these harmful substances and make them unable to harm the body. Consequently, it is generally believed that sufficient amounts of antioxidants might be able to protect humans against developing certain cancers. Furthermore, the antioxidant resveratrol may be useful in treating cancers that show resistance to chemotherapy.
Polyphenols may also help stave off neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This is because of polyphenols' positive impact on brain function. Keeping the brain tissue in good condition by consuming antioxidants might help prevent these diseases. Furthermore, antioxidants may even be used to treat these diseases once they have already taken hold.
The benefits of wine antioxidants seem plentiful, but drinking wine is not the only way to see the same positive results. Polyphenols are found in the skins of grapes, and therefore can be consumed simply by ingesting the fruits themselves. Similarly, 100% purple grape juice is high in antioxidants, as are juices made from fruits such as pomegranates, blueberries, and cranberries.