The issue of wine and health has been the topic of considerable discussion and research in recent years. Wine has a long history of use as medication, being recommended as an antiseptic for treating wounds, a digestive aid, and a cure for a wide range of ailments. Rambam advised us centuries ago that wine, in moderation, has many health benefits. In The Regimen of Health (ch.4 p.10), Rambam writes, “The benefits of wine are very many if consumed properly, being a major factor in the preservation of health and the cure of many illnesses.” He recommended drinking a small amount “after the food has left the stomach.” At the same time, however, he issues a stern warning about the dangers of intoxication, describing it as “extremely harmful,” and noting that it “nullifies the entire body, especially the brain.”

Modern scientific research shows that drinking about one glass of wine a day may help fight heart disease, strengthen your bones, protect your liver and improve your body’s sensitivity to insulin, thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. It has also been shown to help slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Most studies believe that the health benefits of wine lie in its high levels of phytochemicals, such as flavanoids and resveratrol, found mostly in dry red wines. These act as antioxidants and prevent molecules known as “free radicals” from causing cellular damage in the body.

Wine, however, is not for everyone. The Rambam wrote that wine is very harmful for people under 21 years old, warning, “It destroys their body and soul.” Certain medical conditions are also exacerbated by the consumption of wine. It can elevate triglyceride levels and increase estrogen levels raising tumor progression in women with (or at high risk for) breast cancer. Red wine has also been known to trigger migraine headaches in some people. So if you suffer from any medical condition, make sure you seek the advice of your physician before adding wine to your diet.