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Does drinking red wine lower your risk of stroke?

There is consistency in various studies that say that limited consumption of wine can help prevent strokes but first we need to understand our own limits and watch out for caveats, says Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant and Head, Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim

Along with reducing stroke, moderate wine consumption has been linked to lower prospects of developing a cardio-vascular disease. (File/Representational)

While the benefits of drinking red wine have been well propagated for heart health, can a glassful after dinner prevent the possibility of you getting a stroke or clogged arteries? Many studies have bandied about the benefits of wine but what they don’t tell you are the caveats that come with it. “While studies have shown that drinking wine is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, what we need to know is that the same doesn’t hold good for other spirits and alcoholic beverages like beer. Besides, people who drank large quantities of wine did not see any health benefits. So we need to talk specifics and set limits,” says Dr Sanjith Saseedharan, Consultant and Head, Critical Care, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim.

In fact, moderate and high alcohol consumption can substantially increase the risk of stroke, he adds. In addition, “high episodic drinking, or what is termed as drinking more than five drinks at any one time during the month, can also act as a trigger for strokes. In India, even low consumption of alcohol, that is, 1-7 drinks per week can prove risky, especially compared to Western countries. Besides, when you are drinking wine matters a lot in it becoming restorative or degenerative for human health,” he says.


The Copenhagen City Heart Study, which was published in 1998, said that wine had been demonstrated to have a protective effect when it came to stroke risks. The logic was that wine contained flavonoids and tannins that are known to have beneficial benefits and prevent the incidence of stroke. Further, the timing of wine intake was also found to be crucial.

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A review of studies published in 2015 found that low-to-moderate red wine consumption appeared to reduce a person’s risk for stroke, having problems with thinking (cognition), and developing a condition called macular degeneration that affects vision. This, according to researchers at the US-based Johns Hopkins, is because of chemicals in red wine that fight inflammation and free radicals, as well as protect the brain. One such chemical is Resveratrol, which is known to increase the level of an enzyme called Heme Oxygenase and protects the brain from diseases and nerve damage.

Johns Hopkins researchers found that two hours after feeding mice a single modest dose of Resveratrol, a compound found in the skins and seeds of red grapes, the scientists induced an ischemic stroke by essentially cutting off blood supply to the animals’ brains. They found that the animals that had preventively ingested the Resveratrol suffered significantly less brain damage than the ones that had not been given the compound.

Sylvain Doré, Ph.D., who did the study with others, then claimed that Resveratrol increases levels of Heme Oxygenase, already known to shield nerve cells in the brain from damage. When the stroke hits, the brain is ready to protect itself because of elevated enzyme levels. In mice that lacked the enzyme, the study found, Resveratrol had no significant protective effect and their brain cells died after a stroke.“Our study adds to evidence that Resveratrol can potentially build brain resistance to ischemic stroke,” Doré had then said.


Along with reducing stroke, moderate wine consumption has been linked to lower prospects of developing a cardio-vascular disease. This is often alluded to as the ‘French Paradox’, as, despite the excess consumption of cheese and butter, the French population have lower incidences related to clot-induced cardiac and cerebral events like stroke and heart attacks. According to many people, this is probably since regular consumption of red wine with meals is a standard feature of their culture.

Doré had then cautioned against taking Resveratrol supplements because it was unclear whether such supplements could do harm or good. “And while Resveratrol is found in red grapes, it’s the alcohol in the wine that may be needed to concentrate the amounts of the beneficial compound,” says the study.


Resveratrol lowers inflammation, which can congest the blood vessels. It has antioxidants which fight free radicals in the body that may harm cells and damage blood vessels in the brain. If a person has fewer working brain cells, they will likely feel the effects of a stroke more.


Wine is usually consumed with meals as opposed to other alcohols consumed with fried foods (more so in India) and somewhat irregularly. This is also another reason why wine consumption contributes to the reduction of clot or plaque formation related to certain foods. Whatever the benefits of the effects of wine, at least there is consistency in various studies that says that limited consumption of wine can help prevent stroke.


Some other reported benefits of wine include raising the good cholesterol in the body, reducing blood clot formation and improving the layer of cells that line the blood vessels.


However, it is essential to know that excessive drinking of alcohol can increase an individual’s chance of having a stroke, since it can lead to obesity, increased blood pressure and damaged organs. “Besides you should not even drink wine if you have pre-existing health conditions, take medication, or have a history of alcohol use disorders. Even if drinking wine has benefits, such people with a history of stroke should not drink without a clinical consult,” adds Dr Saseedharan.

First published on: 16-11-2022 at 07:01 IST
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