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Mulled wine: 11 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…

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.

Of course, while drinking too much is always bad for you (remember: always drink responsibly), it turns out that indulging in a festive glass of mulled wine every now and then does have some unexpected health benefits – which is nothing short of a Christmas miracle, in our opinion.

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

It can apparently boost your memory

Ever heard of resveratrol? It’s a naturally occurring compound found in foods such as red grapes, red wine, raspberries, and dark chocolate – and it’s a miracle worker when it comes to your memory.

In fact, 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.

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

“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 can apparently 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%.

We’ll raise a glass to that…

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 more than 14 weekly glasses of wine for a year were 40% less likely to come down with a common cold. 

Bottoms up…

It can detoxify your body – particularly your liver

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.

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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’s 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 11 to 29 grams of alcohol a day – the equivalent of one to three glasses 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 can 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 can lower your risk of diabetes

Mulled wine can help to ward off diabetes; in fact, a 2009 study in Canada showed that all wines 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 thanks to all of those red grapes.

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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Images: Getty/Gaby Dyson/Hannah Pemberton/Unsplash

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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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