Mulled wine: 12 surprising health benefits of our favourite festive drink

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Kayleigh Dray
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Mulled wine and its surprising health benefits

Mulled wine, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. These are the health benefits of our favourite festive drink – when approached in moderation, of course.

Please always remember to drink responsibly.

Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a steaming cup of mulled wine – ideally with a cinnamon stick bobbing inside it, a sprinkle of nutmeg, and a slice of orange hooked fetchingly over the rim. 

For those who want to keep things as festive as possible, you can infuse even more Christmassy flavours into the warm drink with this delicious cranberry-infused mulled wine recipe. And, for those who love the idea of mulled wine but prefer to stick to non-alcoholic drinks, the solution is simple: whisk up a mulled wine mocktail by swapping the wine for a glug of red grape juice instead.

Anyone for a moreish mulled wine?

Naturally, drinking too much is always bad for you (to help lower your risk of “alcohol-related harm”, the NHS has published a number of recommended guidelines online). But it turns out that indulging in a festive glass of mulled wine every now and then may come with some unexpected benefits.

Here’s a few of our favourites for you to mull over…

It may help slow down ageing 

A 2017 study from the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute found that Resveratrol, a polyphenolic compound found naturally in the skin of red grapes, may help to slow down the body’s ageing process. 

Resveratrol is one in a number of antioxidants in red wine that can fight aging and age-related diseases such as heart disease and stroke. So as you savour that glass of Merlot, you may be giving your body an anti-ageing boost. 

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It can apparently boost your memory

Resveratrol may be helpful when it comes to your memory, too.

Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Centre have found that resveratrol reduces the ability of harmful immune molecules to infiltrate brain tissue, which could help to protect against Alzheimer’s disease.

The study’s lead author, Assistant Professor Dr Charbel Moussa said: ‘These findings suggest that resveratrol imposes a kind of crowd control at the border of the brain.”

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“The agent seems to shut out unwanted immune molecules that can exacerbate brain inflammation and kill neurons,” she adds.

“These are very exciting findings because it shows that resveratrol engages the brain in a measurable way, and that the immune response to Alzheimer’s disease comes, in part, from outside the brain.”

And, as resveratrol is found in both red wine and red grapes, this is true of both non-alcoholic and alcoholic mulled wines. Win.

Mulled wine
Mulled wine may boost your memory

It could assist in lowering your cholesterol

Which is great news, but it depends on the particular type of red wine (or red grape juice) you use.

A study from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain has shown that Tempranillo red grapes—which are used to make certain red wines, like Rioja—may actually have a significant effect on cholesterol levels.

Researchers discovered that healthy study participants who consumed the same grape supplement found in red wine saw their LDL (aka their “bad” cholesterol) levels decrease by 9%. Participants with high cholesterol experienced a drop of 12%.

It could help to protect your heart

Polyphenols – the antioxidants found in red wine – can help to keep blood vessels flexible and reduce the risk of unwanted clotting.

Professor John Folts, who specialises in cardiovascular medicine at University of Wisconsin-Madison, told Today: “They’re nearly as effective as aspirin.”

However, as is always the case with alcohol, remember to drink responsibly; too much alcohol can prove damaging to the heart. Or, y’know, opt for the red grape juice version: polyphenols can be found in grape juice, grape skin and grape seeds, too.

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It can help to prevent colds

Tis the season to get the sniffles – but, as it turns out, a weekly glass of mulled wine, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, could keep bugs firmly at bay. And it’s all thanks to the antioxidants packed inside red grapes; they fight off infections, and protect cells against the effects of free radicals.

Not convinced? Don’t take our word for it; a 2010 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that among 4,000 faculty members at five Spanish universities, those who drank wine for a year were 40% less likely to come down with a common cold. Obviously this only works in moderation, as wine can actively weaken your immune system when you’re ill; including colds. 

Nutmeg can detoxify your body 

Enjoy nutmeg in your mulled wine? Who can blame you; not only does it taste magnificent, but it also acts as a detoxifying agent and can improve the overall health of your body. More specifically, though, it rules supreme in looking after your liver and kidney; nutmeg helps to cleanse these organs out of all the toxins that may be stored there, from alcohol, drugs, pollution, food, or natural organic toxins.

It's the red grape part of mulled wine that contains the health-giving potential

It could protect you from strokes

Red wine tannins – aka the stuff that makes it glow that ruby-red colour – contain resveratrol, which helps to remove chemicals responsible for causing blood clots. Which, in turn, reduces your chance of having a stroke.

Dr. Natalia Rost, the associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, says: “Studies show that if you have about one drink per day, your risk may be lower.”

However she cautions: “Once you start drinking more than two drinks per day, your risk goes up very sharply.”

It can act as an anti-inflammatory

It wouldn’t be a glass of mulled wine without a few cinnamon sticks, and these Christmassy bundles of fun are filled with antioxidants. Cue a potent anti-inflammatory activity, which can reduce swelling and restore normal tissue function – not to mention ease arthritic aches and pains.

It could be good for your bones

Once again, you can thank your red wine for this; a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology in April 2000 showed that women who drank around 11 grams of alcohol a day – the equivalent of one glass of wine – had greater bone mineral density, measured in the hip region of their thighbones, than nondrinkers or heavy drinkers.

Bone mineral density, for those wondering, is the measure physicians use to determine bone strength and resilience.

Mulled wine on a tray
Mulled wine can be made using either red wine or red grape juice, for a delicious mulled mocktail

It can help to dissolve kidney stones

Again, this is all about the nutmeg you’re consuming via your mulled wine; its active ingredients have been shown to help to dissolve kidney stones, and increase overall function and efficiency of the kidney and liver.

It may help ease constipation

If your mulled wine features cloves (and it really should – this is a crucial ingredient for the ultimate Christmassy tipple), you’re in luck; the active principles in the clove may increase gut motility as well as improve the digestion power through increasing gastro-intestinal enzyme secretions. Which, when you break it down, simply means that it can help to relieve indigestion and constipation problems: amazing.

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It may help negate the risk of diabetes 

A 2009 study in Canada showed that wines of all types can lower your risk of contracting the disease by a cool 13%.

However they do warn that people who already have diabetes should take care when drinking alcohol; drink slowly, eat carbohydrate-rich foods, and be aware that glucagon (a treatment for low blood glucose) will not work when alcohol is in your blood system. It’s also worth remembering that mulled wine can often have a higher sugar content than most other vinos.

Mulled wine in a pan
Mulled wine, whether alcoholic or non-alcoholic, is packed full of antioxidants

It all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? But please do remember that less is definitely more when it comes to booze, so stay smart, drink responsibly, and avoid partaking in anything more than one glass a night. As with any alcohol, over-imbibing can wreak havoc on your health.

Otherwise… bottoms up.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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