Can wine be part of an anti-inflammatory diet?

Oct 10, 2013

Q: My doctor has recommended I follow an anti-inflammatory diet to help with some chronic conditions. Can wine still be a daily or weekly part of my life? —Terry, New York City

A:Yes—in fact, many doctors recommend wine as a beneficial component of an anti-inflammatory diet. Inflammation, as you're probably aware, manifests as the body's natural reaction to infectious agents. Well-known inflammatory conditions include arthritis, meningitis, asthma, laryngitis and pneumonia. As you age, chronic inflammation can lead to muscle loss.

Red wine's most famous polyphenol, resveratrol, has been shown to prevent chronic systemic inflammation in several distinct ways. Various studies confirm that resveratrol acts as an inhibitor of COX-2, an enzyme responsible for pain and swelling. It may also prevent fungal infection, which can lead to inflammation; plants produce resveratrol in the first place to prevent fungal infection in themselves.

Perhaps resveratrol's most powerful anti-inflammatory effects, however, are due to its antioxidant properties. Over time, free radicals and oxidative stress can cause chronic inflammation by damaging cell proteins and membranes. Antioxidants prevent free radical damage, and they've been shown to be especially potent as a supplement to exercise, which generates lots of free radicals. Many doctors say that any anti-inflammatory diet should be rich in antioxidants, since one of the keys to reducing inflammation is reducing oxidation. As always, we urge you to consult your doctor, but as you cut back on simple carbs and up your intake of berries, cruciferous vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids, remember that a glass of red wine is likely enhancing their effects.

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