A recent trend that moderate red wine consumption is beneficial to health has become widely accepted and even more focused on in the research field. The ‘French paradox’, popularized by Renaud and Lorgeril in the 1990s is responsible for this recent curiosity. It revealed that while France is traditionally one of the highest consumers of saturated fats and cholesterol, it has one of the lowest rates of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) and mortality.1
Red wine is accountable for such trends because it is consumed in the highest abundance in France, and it was first thought that the alcoholic (ethanol) components were responsible for such findings. Recent studies have focused more specifically on red wine because it holds a special group of natural ingredients found in grapes called, polyphenols.2 These are not found in other beverages containing the same ethanol components. While they have been known to be beneficial in their antioxidant abilities which reduce premature aging and disease, many studies have tried to target one specific polyphenol, mainly catechin, as being responsible for driving mechanisms that reduce risk factors for disease, especially CHD.3 With respect to the ‘French paradox’, the question remains, is catechin primarily responsible for the mechanisms involved in reducing CHD or do they collectively contribute aiding CHD health?
In many studies, polyphenols have been found to have antioxidant properties that participate in two mechanisms associated with risk factors for CHD. They contribute to reducing heart disease by preventing a chemical reaction (oxidation) of bad cholesterol (LDL), which stops formation of a substance on the walls of the vessels leading to the heart called, plaque.4 This process called LDL oxidation reduces CHD risk because polyphenols strengthen the ability for the heart to function adequately to the body’s needs. If plaque forms, platelets from the blood stick to it and eventually cause blood clots, which further blocks blood flow to the arteries and the heart. This is called platelet aggregation and is another mechanism polyphenols inhibit, which decreases CHD risk.5 Since both of these mechanisms are so closely related in terms of their effect on risk for CHD, the focus must now be on whether catechin or all of these phenolic components combined aid in reducing the latter two mechanisms.
Since the United States tragically tops the list of having the highest rate of CHD with approximately 500,000 deaths each year (American Heart Association) and falls to the bottom as consumer of red wine compared to Europe, perhaps proof of such benefits, through phenolic interaction could help reduce America’s epidemic.
Studies that have found beneficial effects from polyphenolic sources have emphasized identifying a single polyphenol, like catechin.6 The likelihood that a single polyphenol can...