The answer depends on the study. As far back as 1997, epidemiological studies suggested that moderate regular consumption of wine, red wine in particular, was associated with decreased risk of ischemic heart disease death(ref). Then there is the often-cited 2007 study done by researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands of 1373 men born between 1900 and 1920(ref). That study showed that, compared with men who did not consume alcoholic beverages, wine drinkers lived an average 3.8 years longer. Dr. Daan Kromhout, a senior author of the the study and vice president of the Health Council of The Netherlands is reported to have said “– men who drank about a half a glass of wine a day had a 40% reduction in all cause mortality and a 48% lower incidence of cardiovascular death.”
On the other hand, it appears that women who drink just one small glass of wine a day significantly increase their risk of getting a number of cancers. This is according to an article in the Feb 24, 2009 issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute reporting on a study of 1,280,296 middle-aged women conducted at the University of Oxford in the UK. Of the women who drank, the average intake was the equivalent to a small glass of wine or 8g of alcohol. Drinking is estimated to result in 7,000 additional cancer deaths a year in the UK, 15 extra cases of cancer per 1,000 women(ref). Rates of breast, oral, rectal, oesophageal, laryngeal and liver cancer were higher in the wine-drinking group. “In an editorial published alongside the research, Michael Lauer and Paul Sorlie at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute in Maryland, US, write: ‘From the standpoint of cancer risk the message of this report could not be clearer. There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe.’”
So what is going on here? Is drinking a little red wine daily very good for the longevity of Dutch men but quite bad for British women? Is there a critical health difference between drinking a half-glass and a full glass? If Dutch men can be equated with British women, do the two studies taken together say the cardiovascular benefit of drinking the daily shot of wine exceeds the increased cancer risk? Or should the British study be paid more attention to because of its much larger population sample? Or perhaps the Dutch gentlemen were drinking better organic wines than cheaper stuff the English ladies were drinking. Were the English ladies possibly imbibing wines with carcinogenic contaminants or additives? Grapes can absorb pesticides and arsenic from the soil and wine can be contaminated by ochratoxin, or aflatoxin, all of which promote cancers. It is enough to get me dizzy without drinking any wine at all.
Personally, I might drink a half-glass of red wine once or twice a month. However, I take trans-resveratrol capsules twice daily without fail.