Does wine help you lose weight?
If you've read stories recently extolling the benefits of nightly drinking as the new secret to weight loss, put down the glass and listen up. We're sorry to be a buzzkill, but as amazing as it sounds, two glasses of red wine before bed are not going to magically burn away the pounds.
Again, we're sorry we have to do this. But here's what you ought to know:
One study published last year found that a component in red wine may convert "bad fat" into "good fat," but even the authors said that doesn't mean drinking wine will keep you from gaining weight.
Researchers at Washington State University found last year that when mice were fed a high-fat diet, those that were also given resveratrol—an antioxidant compound in wine—gained about 40 percent less weight. The scientists determined that resveratrol increases the expression of genes that help convert regular white fat into lipid-burning "beige fat." If enough of this conversion happens it can partially prevent obesity, explains one of the study authors, Min Du, a professor of animal sciences.
Resveratrol is not alone in this capability. It is one in a group of antioxidants called polyphenols that are found in fruit and can regulate gene expression and increase the ratio of beige to white fat. If you want to up your intake of polyphenols, you're better off eating more fruit than drinking more wine.
"Many of the beneficial polyphenols are insoluble and get filtered out during the wine production process," Du says in an article released by the university. Wine, he adds, therefore only contains a fraction of the resveratrol and other phenolic compounds found in grapes.
The researchers gave their rodent subjects pure doses of resveratrol roughly equivalent to what you—a human—could get by eating about 12 ounces of fruit per day. Du says that your best bet is to increase your total polyphenol consumption by eating at least two or three servings a day of blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, apples and other colorful fruits.
There's also this notion floating around that you should drink two glasses of wine before bed if you want to lose weight, and that's just not good advice for a couple reasons.
One article making the rounds this week suggests that if you put a bunch of semi-recent research together it teaches you that the answer to a smaller waistline is two glasses of red wine before bed. There are a couple problems with this.
For one thing, one of the studies cited is that mouse study from Washington, the authors of which explicitly say that drinking wine isn't going to make your fat burn itself into oblivion. Another source cited is a 2010 Harvard study in Archives of Internal Medicine, which surveyed 19,220 middle-aged women in the U.S. about their drinking habits and weight, then followed up 13 years later. The study found that those who were of normal, healthy weight at the start and reported drinking a light to moderate amount of alcohol gained less weight and were less likely to become overweight or obese in the subsequent 13 years. While the authors concluded that moderate drinking led to less weight gain over time, they, too, stopped short of making any recommendations based on their findings.
And let's not forget that wine has calories. So if you decide to add two glasses of wine to your daily diet, you're talking about another 250 calories every day (that's assuming you don't over-pour). Consuming more calories every day isn't a great way to try to lose weight.
Finally, the advice to drink wine at night, specifically, came, roughly, from a 2012 study in bumblebees, which found that giving them resveratrol seemed to make the bees eat less. Ergo, the logic says, if you drink at night you won't eat midnight snacks anymore and therefore you'll lose weight.
That is quite a leap. One, it's assuming that the only thing making you gain (or not lose) weight is raiding the fridge after lights out. And, more importantly: Mice and bumblebees are not people. You can't take results from rodent studies—and certainly not from bee studies, either—and assume they apply to humans.
Plus, drinking wine right before bed is really bad for sleep. It might make you pass out fast, but it keeps you out of the deeper stages of sleep that your body so desperately needs. And research shows time and again (and again, and again) that sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. So it seems like a pretty bad weight loss strategy to do something that experts agree messes with your precious zzz's.
Of course we're all looking for a magic bullet, so headlines like these are super appealing. But losing weight is never going to be as simple as DO THIS, BE SKINNY.
If weight loss is your goal, here are some articles to help you find an approach that can work for you. It's not going to be as easy as drinking half a bottle of Merlot and passing out, but it'll give you a better chance of success and save you the false promises.
For when you do want to have a glass of wine, shop these fun products for wine lovers below: