Can Wine Protect You From Having a Stroke?

Alcohol and stroke have a very complex and often unclear relationship. On one hand, alcohol is well  established as one of the causes of stroke, and on the other hand, alcohol, especially wine, has been linked with stroke prevention. So, can you find any guidelines when it comes to alcohol consumption and your brain health? Yes, it turns out that there is a rule of thumb for the 'right amount' of alcohol.

Alcohol and Your Brain Health

Stroke is a devastating disease, and there is no simple or effective cure for stroke. This makes stroke prevention especially important.

Dietary modifications have been proven to help prevent stroke. Scientific studies have also confirmed that moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly red wine, may play a role in stroke prevention. Research from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, have reported that low to moderate amounts of red wine consumption reduces a number of neurological conditions, including stroke, thinking ability and macular degeneration (a condition that affects vision.)

As it turns out, France is a country with one of the lowest stroke rates in the world, as well as a famous preference for red wine.

How Does Alcohol Work to Prevent Stroke?

Red wine is the alcoholic beverage that has been associated with reduced stroke risk because it has a unique chemical composition.

A substance in red wine called Resveratrol has been shown to produce  chemical changes in the body that can help reduce the risk of stroke.

Resveratrol decreases inflammation. This is important because inflammation contributes to the brain injury caused by a stroke. Inflammation generates blood vessel congestion and increases the risk of cerebrovascular disease, heart disease and hemorrhagic stroke.

Resveratrol also works as an antioxidant, which means that it combats free radicals. Free radicals are chemicals produced before, during and after stroke. Free radicals are dangerous because they harm nearby cells, damaging the blood vessels in the brain and making them prone to bleeding or blockage. In addition, free radicals can damage brain cells, leading to less overall brain power, which makes a stroke more devastating if it actually does occur. So, foods that combat free radicals can help protect against stroke and improve overall health.

And, a third chemical action of resveratrol is the promotion of a process called neuroprotection, which means protection of nerves and their surrounding blood vessels from damage. In the long term, neuroprotection prevents nerves from becoming severely damaged from a stroke, and prevents the cerebrovascular disease that leads to a stroke in the first place.

How Much Alcohol is Considered Moderate?

This differs for every person. Obviously, someone who has a small frame and low body weight cannot safely consume as much alcohol as someone who is taller and weighs more.

Similarly, in order to gain the beneficial effects of alcohol, a small person would not need to consume as much as a larger person.

There are also genetic differences in how each individual metabolizes alcohol. You may have noticed that some people feel light headed faster after drinking an alcohol-containing beverage, while some people get headaches, and others get drunk more easily. Similarly, each person has a different predisposition for alcoholism and addiction and it is believed that this is based in genetics- so some individuals are more likely to be able to maintain moderate, controlled alcohol intake, while others have a tendency to overuse and abuse alcohol.

In general, according to the studies that have documented the benefits of red wine, a moderate amount of red wine consumption is considered to be 1 or 2 glasses with a meal a few times per week.

Should I Start Drinking Red Wine?

The beneficial effects of moderate alcohol use are modest- meaning that they are not dramatic. However, for most people, moderate amounts of red wine are considered a safe and effective tool in stroke prevention. It certainly is not useful to drink wine if it gives you headaches or if you have a family history or personal history of alcohol dependency. If you have liver disease or disease of the pancreas, it is best to avoid alcohol. Moderation is the key when it comes to what you eat and drink.

Red wine is not the only dietary modification that is scientifically linked with stroke prevention. A vegetarian diet, a diet low in salt, and surprisingly, regular chocolate consumption is also linked to a lower incidence of stroke.


Alcohol and cardiovascular health: the dose makes the poison…or the remedy, O'Keefe JH, Bhatti SK, Bajwa A, DiNicolantonio JJ, Lavie CJ, Mayo Clinical Proceedings, March 2014

Co-morbidities and mortality associated with intracranial bleeds and ischaemic stroke, Sangha J, Natalwala A, Mann J, Uppal H, Mummadi SM, Haque A, Aziz A, Potluri R, International Journal of Neuroscience, June 2014

Neuroprotective action of resveratrol, Bastianetto S, Ménard C, Quirion R, Biochim Biophys Acta., October 2014

Resveratrol and stroke: from chemistry to medicine, Nabavi SF, Huige L, Daglia M, Nabavi SM, Current Neurovascular Research, November 2014

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