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Wondering about the benefits of red wine?

Well, cheers! It can be part of your heart healthy lifestyle and here's why.

There has been quite a bit of media coverage about the possible health benefits of red wine. Some of the known heart-healthy benefits include:

  • Raises HDL cholesterol, the "good" cholesterol
  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Inhibits the formation of blood clots
  • Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of LDL cholesterol, the "bad" cholesterol

I'd like to suggest one more in the list of benefits of red wine - it tastes and feels good!

Researchers at the University of Bordeaux found that moderate wine consumption (2-3 glasses a day) was associated with a 30% reduction in the death rate from all causes; a 35% percent reduction in death rates from heart disease; and an 18-24% reduction in death rates from cancer.

An Israeli study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that drinking red wine with meals resulted in a 20% reduction in the LDL (“bad”) cholesterol oxidation. A Dutch study, published in the British Medical Journal, found that alcohol consumed with a meal may prevent blood clotting triggered by fat. Red wine has an aspirin-like effect, thinning the blood.

Wine is more commonly consumed at mealtimes than either beer or hard liquor, and these differences in timing may be important, according to researchers.

Pro-red wine studies suggest antioxidants in red wine help protect the lining of blood vessels in your heart.

Antioxidants come in two main forms

Flavonoids.These antioxidants are found in a variety of foods, including oranges, apples, onions, tea, and cocoa and in small amounts in other types of alcohol such as white wine and beer, but red wine has higher levels.

Nonflavonoids. These antioxidants found in red wine have recently been of particular interest to researchers because they appear to help prevent arteries from becoming clogged; however, these studies involved mice — not humans. (Lucky mice - was that a vintage Cabernet Sauvignon?)

According to the Mayo clinic, the potential benefits of red wine to heart health look promising. Those who drink moderate amounts of alcohol, including wine, seem to have a lower risk of heart disease but more research is needed.

New findings

Results from the European study IMMIDIET published in the January 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggest that moderate alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells.

The IMMIDIET study examined 1,604 citizens from three geographical areas: London,England; Limburg,Belgium; and Abruzzo, Italy. All participants underwent a comprehensive medical examination, including a one year recall food frequency questionnaire to assess their dietary intake, including alcohol consumption.

The researchers found that moderate alcohol drinking boosts the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in our body. Omega-3 fatty acids, mainly derived from fish, are considered protective against coronary heart disease and sudden cardiac death.

Analysis carried out on different alcoholic beverages showed that the association between alcohol and omega-3 fatty acids was present in both wine drinkers and beer or spirits drinkers; however, the association was stronger between wine drinking and omega-3 fatty acids levels. This suggests that components of wine other than alcohol are associated with omega-3 fatty acids concentration. They guess this effect can be attributed to polyphenols.

Polyphenols are naturally occurring compounds contained in a variety of food and beverages, such as wine. Due to their strong antioxidant activity, they are able to reduce oxidation processes caused by free radicals. Source: ScienceDaily.com

The Mediterranean diet typically includes red wine, but consumed only in moderation.

When considering the benefits of red wine, the "French paradox," often comes up. Studies have shown that in areas of France where the diet is relatively high in saturated fat, those who drink red wine with their meals have a lower incidence of heart attack than other parts of the world. However, the jury is out on the French paradox as statistics collected by the World Health Organization from 1990–2000 show that the incidence of heart disease in France may have been underestimated, and may in fact be similar to that of neighboring countries.

In 2008 it was found that high doses of resveratrol (found in red wine) mimicked some of the benefits of caloric restriction (including reduced effects of aging) in a mice study (again those lucky mice!). Tests of 165 wines showed that resveratrol is found in greatest concentration in European red wines from certain areas, which correlates with longevity in those regions.

Benefits of red wine - in moderation

While the news about the benefits of red wine might sound great if you happen to enjoy a glass of wine with your evening meal (as I do), the health effects of alcohol have been debated for many years. Doctors are wary of encouraging anyone to drink because too much alcohol can have harmful effects on your body. Suggested amounts vary. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one 5-ounce glass of wine daily for women (or men over age 65), and no more than two 5-ounce glasses of wine daily for men under age 65. Other organizations suggest a range of 9 - 14 drinks per week for women and 14 - 21 for men.

If you are unable to limit your alcohol intake to moderate amounts, you have a personal or family history of alcohol abuse, or you have liver disease, refrain from drinking wine or any other alcohol. Excessive drinking can actually raise the likelihood of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Keep in mind that red wine may also trigger migraines in some people.

But despite the caution, doctors do agree that something in red wine appears to help your heart. In moderation it won't hurt and it just may help!

More and more research points to nutrition as the basis for good health and the cause of so much disease.

We believe we've been fed a lot of bad information about what's good for us and what's not.

We can't tell you what to eat, just make the strong suggestion that you do your own research, learn how politics, personal agendas and big business has created the climate that's lead to our sky rocketing rates of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other diseases.

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