|The beverage displays benefits beyond those of alcohol, thanks to its polyphenol antioxidants
by Craig Weatherby
Twenty years ago, the apparent heart benefits of red wine prompted one researcher to coin the phrase “French Paradox”.
The paradox is that France enjoys low rates of heart disease and obesity despite the country’s relatively high-fat diet and daily wine routine.
Moderate consumption of alcohol is clearly associated with reduced risk of heart disease.
But it’s been less clear whether the polyphenol-type “antioxidants” in red wine give it an advantage over white wine and other drinks lacking these compounds.
We do know that these polyphenols relax arteries, with beneficial implications for hypertension, stroke, and metabolic syndrome (Schini-Kerth VB et al. 20120; Andriantsitohaina R et al. 2012).
In recent years, attention has focused on resveratrol – a polyphenol that protects grapes from fungi – as the key “bioactive” compound in grapes and red wine.
Animal studies suggest that resveratrol exerts anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects, and may bring cardiovascular, metabolic, and energy benefits … as well as possible protection against Alzheimer’s.
More likely, as other research shows, the benefits of red wine polyphenols are synergistic, with the combination being better than any one of them.
The results of a clinical trial from Spain suggest that the polyphenols in red wine improve sugar metabolism in men at high risk of heart disease … independent of alcohol.
Spanish study supports the benefits of red wine over other drinks
Researchers from the University of Barcelona and the University of Valencia recruited 67 men at high risk for cardiovascular disease (Chiva-Blanch G et al. 2012).
The men were randomly assigned to one of three groups for a four week trial:
Both forms of wine were associated with decreases in insulin resistance of between 22 and 30 percent, and by between 14 and 22 percent compared to the gin group.
And both wine groups enjoyed a beneficial drop in blood levels of lipoprotein(a) … which genetic and epidemiologic studies have tagged as a key risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke.
As the authors wrote, “In our study both red wine and de-alcoholized red wine improved insulin sensitivity which, together with prior findings, suggests that both ethanol and polyphenols are responsible for this beneficial effect.” (Chiva-Blanch G et al. 2012)
Affirming the special heart benefits of alcohol (ethanol), HDL cholesterol levels improved in the red wine and gin groups, compared to the de-alcoholized red wine group.
The Spanish scientists came to a conclusion sure to warm the hearts of red wine lovers: “These findings suggest that red wine has greater protective effects than other alcoholic beverages on cardiovascular risk.” (Chiva-Blanch G et al. 2012)
That's tasty music to this oenophilic author's ears!
Andriantsitohaina R, Auger C, Chataigneau T, Etienne-Selloum N, Li H, Martínez MC, Schini-Kerth VB, Laher I. Molecular mechanisms of the cardiovascular protective effects of polyphenols. Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug 31:1-18. [Epub ahead of print]
Chiva-Blanch G et al. Effects of red wine polyphenols and alcohol on glucose metabolism and the lipid profile: A randomized clinical trial. Clinical Nutrition - 05 September 2012. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2012.08.022
Schini-Kerth VB, Auger C, Kim JH, Etienne-Selloum N, Chataigneau T. Nutritional improvement of the endothelial control of vascular tone by polyphenols: role of NO and EDHF. Pflugers Arch. 2010 May;459(6):853-62. Epub 2010 Mar 12. Review.