Various studies have shown that adults who drink moderate amounts of alcohol are less likely to develop heart disease than those who do not drink at all, or are heavy drinkers. Some of the reasons why alcohol may help the heart include:
- Raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol
- Reduces the formation of blood clots
- Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol
Red wine seems to have even more heart-healthy benefits than other types of alcohol. Antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols and flavanoids may help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart and reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Furthermore, consuming a glass of wine along with a meal may favorably influence your lipid profiles following that meal. A polyphenol called resveratrol is one substance in red wine that’s gotten attention.
A recent study published in the journal Circulation, conducted by Frank Sellke M.D, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Rhode Island Hospital, looked into the effects of red wine and vodka on pigs with high cholesterol.
?What we found is that moderate consumption of both alcohols may reduce cardiovascular risk, but that red wine may offer increased protection due to its antioxidant properties,? Sellke commented.
An anti-oxidant, Resveratrol, which is prevalent in the skin of red grapes, might be a key ingredient in red wine that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces “bad” cholesterol, reduces inflammation and prevents blood clots, all of which can lead to heart disease.
In a recent study on humans, researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa found that red wine enhanced the health of the cells in blood vessels.
“The prevalence of cardiovascular disease is low in populations that consume large amounts of red wine,” they write.
“Moderate consumption of red wine provides cardiovascular protection, but the mechanisms that underlie this protection are unclear.” The researchers suggest that red wine increases nitric oxide bioavailability. Blood vessels lining rely on nitric oxide to relax, which aids in blood flow.
This effect of nitric oxide is an interesting one and could explain the benefits mechanism. One common procedure I perform as a cardiac surgeon is Coronary artery bypass grafting surgery (CABG). The most important benefit of CABG procedures is provided by the use of the left internal mammary artery (LIMA) as a conduit for bypassing the blocked anterior descending coronary artery. This graft has shown to have a significant positive impact on long term survival on hundreds of thousands of patients who underwent CABG surgeries over the past 30-40 years.
In fact, the LIMA graft is a more important predictor of survival than progressive coronary artery disease. The success of the LIMA as a conduit is thought to be due to release of endothelium-derived nitric oxide, which inhibit smooth muscle proliferation and atherosclerosis. Although at a different scale, red wine seems to have a similar effect on nitric oxide bioavailability to the vessels internal lining. This in turn could explain the potential prolonged survival benefits of moderate red wine drinkers.
Other compounds such as procyanidins are in high enough concentration in the right type of red wine that a normal glass or two a day provides the ideal dose.
One study published in the International Journal of Cardiology, have examined the effect of red wine consumption on people who have recently experienced a heart attack. A total of 11,323 Italian participants were enrolled. The rate of new cardiovascular events was lowest in participants who consumed moderate levels of wine (up to 0.5L per day). The risk of new cardiovascular events decreased by 13% for those consuming up to 0.5L of wine per day compared with nondrinkers. Wine consumption up to 0.5L and more than 0.5L per day was associated with a lower risk of death than nondrinkers.
While the news about red wine might sound great if you enjoy a glass of red wine with your evening meal, doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to start drinking alcohol. There is a fine line between healthy drinking and risky drinking. That’s because too much alcohol can have many harmful effects on your body.
Moderate drinking is defined as an average of two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women. The limit for men is higher because men generally weigh more and have more of an enzyme that metabolizes alcohol than women do.
Which wines have the most potential benefit for healthy hearts?
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Big reds are best for you, the more dark color, the more extracted flavors, and the better. Grapes with thick skins full of pigment and flavor compounds promote the procyanidins. Procyanidins are condensed tannins that suppress production of the peptide responsible for hardening arteries.
Dry red wines, high in tannins, have a greater protective effect than less tannic wines. Tannins are compounds extracted from the seeds, skins, and stems of grapes that give red wines their characteristic dry, full taste. As a high-quality red wine ages, its sharpness softens and the flavor becomes more complex. So the same ingredient that helps red wines become better with age may help people live longer by protecting against heart disease.
The amount of tannins in a red wine like cabernet sauvignon varies, depending on the winemaking methods used. Winemaking techniques that ensure a higher amount of tannins produce wines that are healthier for the heart and may contribute to the longer longevity seen in regions known for producing such wines. Specifically, extended maceration or leaving grape juice to ferment for as long as four weeks for maximal extraction produces a much larger amounts of procyanidin compared with the more typical one-week period of many large production wineries, which keeps the level of harsh tannins low.
Researchers at the University of California, at Davis tested a variety of wines to determine which types have the highest concentrations of Gastrointestinal buy Cytotec flavonoids. Their results concluded that the flavonoid favorite is Cabernet Sauvignon. Syrah, is another dark red wine known to have significant levels of reservatol and flavonoids, but they are less in comparison to Cabernet Sauvignon. In the same way, Pinot Noir is another similar red wine that comprises of reservatol and flavonoids in almost similar amounts as Syrah. Both Merlots and red zinfandels have fewer flavonoids. White wine had significantly smaller amounts than the red wine varieties.