Who doesn’t appreciate when science says something you love is healthy to do? For example, my ears perk up when I hear about studies on the health benefits of drinking coffee, on listening to music, or on taking micro-naps at the office.
Now, another reason to tune in and perk up: Science is telling us about the benefits of drinking wine. The benefits center on our center — our brain and its health. And what’s good for the brain is good for our happiness, success, and longevity.
It all started in 2017, when Yale neuroscientist Gordon Shepherd told NPR that tasting wine engages more of the brain than any other human behavior. Solving a tough math problem, listening to music, and trying to hit a curveball each stimulate the brain less than drinking a glass of wine.
Tasting wine triggers a complex series of interplays as air meets liquid. The tongue, jaw, throat and diaphragm, as well as taste and odor receptors all get involved to send signals to the brain that trigger serious cognitive work. Your brain gets involved in pattern recognition (“Have I tasted something like this before?”), memory, value judgment, emotion, and pleasure.
And with the brain, much like getting older, you’ve got to use it or lose it, so deeply engaging the brain is a good thing. Studies on the importance of using all of your senses to stay mentally sharp are common, and mental sharpness is table stakes for entrepreneurs looking to maximize productivity.
Wine’s brain-benefits don’t stop there.
Research from Professor Paul Schimmel of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California showed that resveratrol, an organic compound found in red wine, activates a chemical pathway that helps limit stress and damage to DNA cells in the brain, which would otherwise result in aging and disease.
A 2018 study from the University of Rochester Medical Center found that low levels of alcohol consumption, like wine, can lower inflammation in the brain and help it clear away toxins, including those linked to serious diseases of the brain. And research from Johns Hopkins Medicine shows that red wine helps shield the brain from damage following a stroke.
Of course, wine only gives you this tasting of benefits when consumed in moderation, as is true with many things in life. The Mayo Clinic defines moderation as one 12-ounce glass per day for women of all ages, and two 12-ounce glasses per day for men up to 65. Very few medical professionals would recommend taking up alcohol/wine consumption if it wasn’t something you already enjoyed.
Still, it’s nice when science makes you feel OK about something you love to partake in. Especially when it goes the extra mile to show benefits to something as important for our success and outlook as brain health.
Now, if scientists would only get to work on justifying the consumption of cookie-dough ice cream.