A recent study on the effects of alcohol on ovarian reserve resulted in a spate of newspaper articles claiming that red wine has a positive effect on fertility – the Daily Mail has even claimed a set figure of 5 glasses per month could help women get pregnant.
Unfortunately, many newspaper articles reduce the findings of scientific studies into clickable headlines or do not approach studies critically.
The original study itself concluded that red wine was associated with ovarian reserve measured by AFC (antral follicle count). It states that “resveratrol is a naturally occurring polyphenol found in higher concentrations in red wine, and it is known to have anti-inflammatory effects. Resveratrol may act to decrease reactive oxygen species at the level of the ovary, with moderate consumption of red wine, and is one proposed mechanism of higher AFC in our cohort.” This starts to discuss how red wine may help with antral follicle counts, but does not make a firm conclusion about red wine and improved chances of pregnancy and the mechanism through which that may happen.
Most crucially, the study only looked at 135 – this number is too small to draw sweeping conclusions, and the study also did not account for other factors such as ethnicity, diet, lifestyle, and fertility history.
While we have a clear idea of the negative effects of alcohol consumption on fertility, potential benefits of red wine have not yet been studied in as much depth. There have been many purported benefits of red wine thanks to resveratrol, including improved heart health, but moderation is key when it comes to any aspect of a healthy lifestyle.
The fertility-boosting foods and activities have been well-documented for decades – these include eating a balanced diet, reducing caffeine, not smoking, and reducing alcohol intake. A breakthrough that overshadows these practices and recommendations is highly unlikely. Certainly, if somebody is following this advice and still has fertility issues, it is extremely unlikely that a doctor will advise that they take up drinking red wine.