Check out the effect one or two drinks a night can have on your body.
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Smiling young woman drinking glass of red wine in kitchen
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Here at EatingWell, we believe that all foods have a place in a healthy eating pattern—including a glass of wine. Alcohol of many kinds, including wine, has been part of people's evening routines for centuries, and it doesn't look like it's going away any time soon. Whether it's wine, beer or your cocktail of choice, drinking can actually contribute to some health benefits—so long as it's done in moderation. But what exactly happens when you drink the recommended one to two drinks per night? We dive into the research to see how moderate wine consumption can affect the body. 

1. You might have less stress

Sure, you might have experienced the anecdotal effects of this when you wind down with a glass of wine at the end of a long day. But there is actually some research behind wine's stress-lowering effects. A compound in red wine, called resveratrol, is responsible for a lot of wine's anti-inflammatory benefits. Research from 2019 in the journal Neuropharmacology found that resveratrol might have anti-stress effects by blocking enzymes in the brain that lead to depression- and anxiety-like behaviors. Another review of studies found that moderate wine consumption (one glass a day for females and two glasses a day for males) was associated with a 32% lower risk of depression. 

2. Your mental health could improve

When you feel less stressed, it can boost your mood, making it easier to want to socialize. Having strong social support not only can give us a sense of belonging, but also it might significantly lower Alzheimer's disease risk. Other recent research has found that wine consumption can have even deeper benefits when it comes to mental health. The review mentioned above also found that moderate consumption might reduce depression, protect the brain and lower risk of cognitive decline—all of which promote longevity. 

3. Your heart might be healthier 

For decades, research has been coming out about the heart-healthy benefits of wine. The antioxidant compounds in wine can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can lower risk of atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease and stroke. Another review cited studies that found wine to improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels and lower risk of heart attacks.

While this might make wine sound like a miracle cure for heart disease, that's far from the case. In fact, many of these studies also found that drinking more than the recommended limit led to worsened cardiovascular health. So if you do drink wine—or any alcohol—be sure to keep your intake light to moderate at most.  

4. Your gut health could improve 

The health of our gut can contribute to the health of our body as a whole, from supporting immune function to keeping certain types cancer at bay. Typically, when we think of ways to support our microbiome, we think of foods like probiotics and prebiotics, but wine might also make the list. One study found that specifically red wine drinkers had a more diverse microbiome than those who drank other types of alcohol. Researchers attributed this to the antioxidants found in the grapes' skin (namely, resveratrol). 

5. It could reduce your risk for some cancers—and increase your risk for others 

When it comes to wine consumption and cancer risk, there's good news and there's bad news. The good news is that moderate wine consumption could have a protective effect against esophageal and gastric cancers. Another recent study found that moderate wine consumption might decrease renal cancer and thyroid lymphomas. However, the same study also found that moderate alcohol consumption could increase risk for pancreatic, prostate, liver and breast cancers. Other studies have found even just drinking as little as one drink each day can raise estrogen levels, which is a known risk factor for breast cancer.  

The bottom line 

A nightly glass of wine has been part of human life for centuries, but more research is needed to say for certain the effects that it can have on your health. If you enjoy it and keep your consumption within the recommended amount, there might even be some benefits to your health. But if you don't drink, these potential benefits aren't a reason to start. It's important to keep in mind that a healthy lifestyle as a whole, including a healthy eating pattern, physical activity and regular socializing, is most important to support your overall health. Your nightly glass of wine likely won't make or break you.