Red Wine and Lowering the Risk of Heart Disease
Does the consumption of red wine lower the risk of heart disease?
The incidence of coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality in France is the lowest among industrial countries, despite the high incidence of several risk factors. In comparison to Americans, the French consume 3.8 times as much butter and 2.8 times as much lard, they have higher cholesterol and blood pressure levels, they smoke on a comparable level to Americans, and they don't exercise quite as often. Despite these appalling health statistics, the French have a 2.5 fold less risk of dying as a result of heart disease. What can begin to explain this? This phenomenon, known as the "French Paradox," was believed to be due to a vegetable and fruit rich Mediterranean diet. However, through various studies, researchers worldwide have come to agree that the French tradition of consuming red wine is at the root of explaining why the French enjoy a reduced risk of heart disease.
· So, does the consumption of red wine really reduce the risk of heart disease? There has been a consistent body of epidemiologic data that has alluded to the reduced incidence of mortality and morbidity from coronary heart disease (CHD) among those who consume alcohol in moderation in comparison with those who abstain. This protection has been attributed to the ethanol present in those beverages classified as "alcoholic." But gaining further momentum is the evidence that polyphenols also display additional benefits, which at least in vitro and in cell culture experiments act as potent inhibitors of platelet aggregation and biological oxidation reactions associated with the generation of freed radicals. Polyphenols belong to the family of phytochemicals that are found in plants and contribute to a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer in people who consume them regularly.
Polyphenols are a relatively new phenomenon and have not conclusively made their case yet, but there is no disputing the reality that the advocacy of fruit and vegetables as essential components of a healthy diet is based upon their intrinsic content of theses same polyphenols. A major advantage of wine over fruit is that the dietary polyphenols are soluble and bioavailable in wine, which is the degree to which the amount of an ingested nutrient is absorbed and is available to the body. This is an advantage over solid vegetables and fruits, which contain their phenolic components in polymeric, insoluble or tightly bound, and compartmentalized forms that render them unavailable for absorption.
Since very little is known about the extent or amount of uptake of these dietary constituents, it remains to be fully established that red wine provides a more favorable medium than fruits and vegetables. While red wine is apparently a better source of polyphenols, it was necessary to check on wine's inherent properties through other studies. The first study examines resveratrol, a...