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Women who drink wine have less inflammation in their blood vessels, a new study shows. The findings were released in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers studied women after four weeks of drinking two glasses of wine per day.
Prior to the most recent findings, health experts had already determined that wine drinkers in general have a lower incidence of heart disease, although they haven’t discovered exactly why. However, researchers ten years ago at Northwestern University Medical School found that a chemical in red wine believed to help reduce risk for heart disease is a form of estrogen. The substance, resveratrol, is highly concentrated in the skin of grapes, they said. The chemical had been found to protect grapes and some other plants against fungal infections, said Chicago researchers. It has also been shown to have a number of potentially beneficial properties, including antioxidant, anticoagulant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects, they said.
“Figuring out exactly how wine may protect the heart is important in order to prove that the link between wine and heart health is, in fact, a direct one,” University of Barcelona’s Dr. Emilio Sacanella, the lead researcher on the new study told reporters.
Studies showing wine drinkers as having better heart health do not prove that wine is the reason,” he said.
“Wine lovers may, for example, have generally better diets, higher exercise levels or other heart-healthy habits.”
Researchers recruited 35 healthy women who regularly drank wine with each spending about four weeks on a heart-healthy, but wine-free, diet, followed by four weeks in which they had a glass of red wine with lunch and dinner, according to the journal.
They followed the same pattern with white wine. Overall, the study found, the women’s HDL, the good cholesterol, levels rose after four weeks of drinking, while their blood levels of a number of inflammatory substances, such as C-reactive protein, were lowered. The red wine was said to have had a more noticeable effect than white wine.
The greater benefit of red wine may be related to its higher concentration of polyphenols, they said. Polyphenols are plant compounds that act as antioxidants and may help reduce inflammation.
Sacanella said population studies have suggested that people who drink moderate amounts of wine—about a glass or two per day—may lower their risk of dying from heart disease by nearly one-third compared with non-drinkers.
“So a person who usually drinks up to this quantity of alcohol should maintain this healthy habit,” he said.