There's been a lot of debate recently about the health benefits of red wine. Is it actually good for us or do we just want to believe it's good for us because we like to drink it?

Two new studies weigh in and suggest that a substance found in red wine, resveratrol, does come with some health benefits, including preventing cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

One study looked at the difference in the health of those living in France versus those living in Germany. Both countries are known for consuming large quantities of fatty food, but France has far less incidents of cardiovascular disease.

And it just so happens that the French consume a lot more red wine than the Germans. Resveratrol, which is found in wine, has a known effect as an anti-inflammatory agent. Researchers discovered that it also binds to a protein called KSRP, which regulates inflammation. After binding, the protein activates and inhibits inflammation in arteries, which can cause cardiovascular disease.

"We now know more precisely how resveratrol inhibits the formation of the inflammatory factors that trigger cardiovascular diseases," says Andrea Pautz, one of the study's co-authors. "This is an important finding in view of the fact that more recent research has shown that cardiovascular diseases are significantly promoted by inflammatory processes in the body."

A second study looked at the effect of resveratrol on cancer. First, drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer. When the body metabolizes alcohol, it converts it to something called acetyl aldehyde, which eventually creates damage in the DNA that results in cancer. However, in people who drank red wine regularly, that risk was lower because resveratrol, which isn't present in other alcohols, can repair the DNA damage in alcohol that causes cancer.

"The more you drink, the more you accumulate DNA damage, and the more chance that one or more cells will accumulate the specific type of DNA damage that can cause cancer," says Robert Sclafani, one of the authors of the study. Now, resveratrol takes out the cells with the most damage - the cells that have the highest probability of being able to cause cancer."

The takeaway from this study is that if you plan on drinking, drink red wine.

However, don't expect red wine as a cure-all. Another study suggests that resveratrol does not replace the benefits gained from eating healthy and exercise. In fact, that study says the chemical could actually reduce the health benefits gained from exercise.

As with everything, experts stress one thing when it comes to drinking red wine: moderation.

[Photo Credit: Tobias Toft/Flickr]

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