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What Drinking a Glass of Red Wine Every Night Does to Your Body

Is red wine a good nightcap or not?

Alcohol doesn't really come with an open invitation for everyone. Some people may have scenarios that prohibit its use, like pregnancy. We may know someone or personally have a bad relationship with it, or have been exposed to negative consequences of its use. And most of us are aware of the toll excess alcohol consumption can take on a person's health and mental state. But is red wine the exception?

It seems like drinking red wine is recognized as an acceptable—or perhaps even refined—way to enjoy alcohol, which may come with health advantages. Let's explore what happens to your body if you have one glass of red wine every night. Then, learn more about wine relative to your health by checking out This is the Worst Reason to Drink Wine, According to Science and 5 Long-Term Side Effects of Drinking Wine.

You may improve protection against heart disease.

Heart disease persists as the No. 1 killer in the U.S., and advances in nutrition research are continuing to find ways our lifestyle choices might impact risk. It is suspected that moderate consumption (i.e., about five ounces of wine daily) may decrease the clogging of arteries, lower risk for high blood pressure, and generally enhance heart function. A class of compounds in red wine called polyphenols—notably resveratrol, quercetin, and catechins—could be responsible for this benefit. It is crucial to remember, however, that exceeding about one glass of alcohol, particularly wine, daily would likely reverse these benefits, instead increasing heart disease risk.

You will increase your alcohol tolerance.

Middle age man drinking a glass of wine serious face thinking about question, very confused idea

Don't forget wine is still alcohol—and probably more of it compared to other sip-worthy alcoholic beverages. A standard drink contains 14 grams of pure alcohol. Table wine is typically 12% alcohol, while beer is about 5% alcohol, and spirits—which are usually mixed with a sugary drink—are around 40% alcohol. A higher tolerance for alcohol means it will eventually take more and more to feel the same level of desired effects, such as relaxation. This approaches the territory of excess alcohol consumption, which increases risk of chronic diseases, including cancer, liver disease, or stroke.

You may alter the effectiveness of medications.

Most over-the-counter and prescription medications have warning labels adhered to bottles that alert you to the interaction that exists between medications and alcohol. Alcohol can heighten or lessen the effects of medications and can lead to side effects such as stomach bleeding, dramatic changes in blood pressure, and seizures, among others. Although minimal amounts of alcohol lingering in the body may not lead to these scary outcomes, any amount of alcohol is wise to avoid if you are taking medications. Speak with your doctor if you have more questions about your unique medication regimen.

You could contribute to weight gain.

Woman worried about weight gain.

Wine contains more calories per ounce than beer or liquor, equating to about 120 calories per five-ounce glass. Ethanol contains seven calories per gram, while carbohydrates and protein contain just four calories per gram, and fat contains nine calories per gram. Most healthy adults should strive for between 200–300 calories per snack and that would ideally include a nice combination of healthy fat, lean protein, and fiber-filled carbohydrates. Unfortunately, none of these types of nutrients exist in red wine. Too many calories equates to a calorie surplus which fuels weight gain—even more reason to keep red wine to one glass in the evening.

It could help you live longer.

Wine, in particular red wine, may extend the lifespan and reduce risk or help prevent the onset of chronic diseases, including depression and metabolic syndrome, when enjoyed in moderation. This does not necessarily mean that the number of glasses of wine you drink directly translates to extra days, weeks, months, or years lived—but instead, through a combination of factors could exert positive effects on genes and offer some level of protection against poor health outcomes. Binge drinking and alcohol abuse would logically do the opposite, setting you up for risky behaviors that could shorten your life while placing unwanted stress on your body. To demonstrate this risky behavior through a statistic, one in four U.S. adults who binge drink consume at least eight drinks during a binge occasion, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Red wine intake delivers health benefits when consumed in moderation but has many downsides when consumed in excess or paired with medications. Any type of red wine can be enjoyed regularly along with meals, snacks, or alone in the evenings if done responsibly.

Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD
Molly Hembree, MS, RD, LD, is a nationally recognized registered dietitian. Read more about Molly