Ever since the so-called “French Paradox” was touted as the reason that the French had lower heart disease than North Americans, even though they had a diet higher in saturated fats, it has been assumed that wine drinking is essentially good for you.
But now a Czechoslovakian study has looked very closely at wine drinking by introducing wine into peoples’ lives and tracking its effects on their bodies. For one year the participants drank a moderate amount of wine, 5 days a week. For the men that was from 2 to 2.5 glasses, and for the women from one to two glasses daily.
What they discovered was that simply drinking wine did not offer much in the way of measurable benefits: it did not significantly reduce cholesterol or triglycerides, did not improve blood glucose levels, nor reduce inflammatory benchmarks like C-reactive protein (an indicator of heart disease potential). Though, at least, neither did the wine drinking show any damage to the livers of those drinkers.
However, when the researchers analyzed those wine drinkers who also exercised regularly (worked out at least twice a week), the situation changed. For those participants in the study there was a significant improvement in the benchmarks of cardiovascular health, including improvement in cholesterol levels (increased HDL and decreased LDL).
And it made no difference whether the wine was red or white. Considering that red wine is considerably higher in antioxidants than white wine, the study also demonstrated that the benefits accrued where not due to the antioxidants present in the drink. “There may be some synergy between the low dose of ethyl alcohol in wine and exercise which is protective against cardiovascular disease,” said Milos Táborský, lead author of the study. (Source)
As a related side note, one fitness expert, Ben Greenfield, prefers to drink his wine right after exercise. Since alcohol is a high source of carbohydrates, and since after exercise carbs are not fattening but are stored as glycogen deposits (necessary for future energy needs), he counts it as part of his post workout carb-load.