Questions and Answers

Women Holding Grapes

Does alcohol-free wine have the health benefits of alcoholic wine?

"Does de-alcoholised red wine retain the health benefits of drinking very small quantities of red wine?"

Yes – and possibly more! De-alcoholised wines have all the health benefits of alcoholic wines but without the adverse effects of the alcohol content.

Drinkers are being encouraged to reduce their consumption of alcoholic drinks so it may seem that regular wine and beer are off the shopping list. 

Thousands of people join the Dry January Challenge every year by going sober for the full month and many find non-alcoholic drinks helps quench their thirst during the dry month.

Many have found they enjoy being sober so much that they want to continue to cut back on the amounts of alcohol they consume, or quit alcohol for good.

But the days of substituting your favourite tipple for a childish fizzy drinks or just water have gone given the wide range of adult alcohol-free alternatives available.

For those making a long-term alcohol-free lifestyle choice to ditch the booze or to stick within the maximum 14 units a week it will be good to know that alcohol-free beverages are good for you!

Just what are de-alcoholised drinks anyway?

De-alcoholised wines go through the same winemaking process as their alcoholic counterparts, but the alcohol is removed before bottling. They have all the heart-health benefits but fewer calories than their alcoholic equivalents. So those avoiding hangovers can continue to enjoy their favourite drinks and improve their health.

The most important compounds are polyphenols which are chemicals found in plants, fruit, nuts, seeds and vegetables and are concentrated in grape skins. These promote cardiovascular benefits.

Polyphenols are the powerful antioxidants that protect cells. Reds have more of these antioxidants than whites because they spend longer in direct contact with the grape skins during fermentation

Scientists believe these potent antioxidants – which remain after alcohol is removed in the dealcoholisation process – are the main reason for the potential benefits particularly against then risk of heart disease.

Studies report that elements such as the resveratrol content are thought to reduce the risk of cancer and diseases associated with ageing such as brain deterioration, inflammation and diabetes.

It’s these benefits that have led to the belief that moderate alcohol consumption was healthy and won the attention of the drinks industry.

Scientists, however, caution against drinking any more than a small glass of vino and warn that too much alcohol can have then opposite effect and lead to organ failure and increase cardiovascular disease risk, breast cancer risk, and other health risks.

Trials suggest stronger benefits

A small but encouraging trial at a clinic in Barcelona tested the impact of alcoholic reds, non-alcoholic reds, and gin on a group of male patients.

Researchers split a group of male patients in to three groups. Each group drank either 30g of red wine, 30g of non-alcoholic red wine, or 30g of gin every day for four weeks.

At the end of the four weeks, each group swapped to one of the other drinks for four weeks and again switched four weeks later.

By the end of the study, all 67 men had been observed consuming all three drinks.

Each study participant had issues with conditions such as diabetes or at least three of the following risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, a family history of heart disease, excessive weight or obesity, or smoking.

They found that the non-alcoholic red resulted in a a significant decrease in blood pressure, lowering heart disease risk by 14 percent and the risk of stroke by 20 percent. The alcoholic red, however, did not appear to have such effects.

What the experts recommended

The experts concluded that though alcoholic and non-alcoholic red wines contain the same amount of heart-healthy antioxidants, the alcohol may be counteracting the positive benefits of the polyphenols. Non-alcoholic reds may therefore be more effective at protecting the heart. 

They advised that people drinking alcoholic red wine switch to non-alcoholic wine for the cardiovascular and other benefits.

The full study, “Dealcoholized Red Wine Decreases Systolic and Diastolic Blood Pressure and Increases Plasma Nitric Oxide” is published in the National Library of Medicine at the National Centre for Biotechnology Information.

The UK Department of Health guidelines advise that nobody should drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week and should maintain at least two alcohol-free days a week.

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Christine Humphreys

Christine Humphreys

Chris Humphreys is the co-founder of The Alcohol-Free Shop and AlcoholFree.com. She was a journalist for more years than she cares to remember. Ex-wife of an alcoholic, enthusiastic amateur musician and a passionate dog lover.

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