EWWK: Red Wine

By: Kim Beavers Email
By: Kim Beavers Email

Well, I am happy about the heart healthy properties of chocolate and I must say I do like to indulge in the fact that red wine may also carry some heart healthy benefits.

Wine is an interesting and complex subject -- even before you toss in possible health benefits. According to an article in Today’s Dietitian, the 1990s brought about research into the French Paradox. The French have lower rates of heart disease despite higher intakes in saturated fat. One notable difference in the French diet was and is red wine, and so began the research into the cardio-protective properties of red wine.

So then the question is: Does red wine have cardio-protective properties? The short answer is: YES!

Should you drink red wine for the cardiovascular benefits? The American Heart Association says: NO

Of course there is more to the story than a simple yes and no. Some points to consider are that all forms of alcohol have been show to modestly increase the HDL (good) cholesterol (exercise also raises HDL). Alcohol also has a relaxing effect which could lead to improved cardiovascular risk factors.

Red wine has a particular phytochemical called resveratrol to which some of the cardio-protective effects have been linked. This would be more specific to red wine than other forms of alcohol because it is found in the skin of grapes. More resveratrol is found in red wine than white as well. Some of the research on resveratrol uses high enough doses that you would have to consume 80 bottles of wine to match the dose. Clearly that is impractical and definitely does NOT fit into the moderation category. We have seen this type of research before where a particular component of foods is extracted and studied. Like previous research, I suspect that the sum of the parts is more powerful than any one individual compound. If you wish to consume red wine, do so with a meal and go for pinot noir, as it has been shown to have the highest resveratrol content.

The word of caution: Excessive alcohol intake has far more devastating consequences than the benefits of moderate consumption. This is the reason for the NO from the American Heart Association. If you choose to drink, do so in moderation! However, do not start drinking for the sole purpose of achieving a modest cardiovascular benefit.

For more information:
-Is Resveratrol a Panacea? — Evidence Shows It May Protect Against Many Diseases
-To Good Wine ... and Better Health — The Case for Moderate Wine Consumption

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