Red Wine and Heart Health

Answer to the question: "What does red wine and heart health have in common?"

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It’s common knowledge that moderate amounts of red wine are beneficial to human health, especially for a healthy heart, right? That’s certainly what a majority of people might answer if they are asked whether red wine can contribute to general well-being or heart health.

University studies have shown that this may well be true, though the question of amount is still in question. At the core of this issue are a couple of items with scientific names – resveratrol and polyphenol.

Polyphenols are, according to scientific textbooks, chemical compounds that are common in skin of a grape. Other plants also contain significant amounts of polyphenols.

What makes these compounds so important in discussions of wine-drinking and heart health? That answer is simple – polyphenols are important antioxidants that can prevent extreme damage to body cells. These compounds may also help prevent long-term disease.

Smiling heart with a glass of red wine.

-- Red wine and heart health --
Funny heart enjoying a glass of red wine :-)

Resveratrol is one of several polyphenols that have been isolated in medical studies and laboratory research over the years. This is the item that is so prominent in the skins of red grapes. The resveratrol continues to be present in red wine because the color is produced by leaving the skins in the mixture during the production process. So, red wine may indeed be good for general health and might prevent some damage to important cells, such as those in the heart.

The question remains: is this general knowledge supported by strong medical evidence? Yes, according to one of the recognized sources for medical information. According to the Mayo Clinic in the United States, “The alcohol and certain substances in red wine called antioxidants may help prevent heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage.”

As with other trusted medical experts, members of the Mayo staff might suggest red wine in very moderate amounts, but urge patients to avoid drinking alcohol in larger amounts. In certain amounts, alcohol can have harmful effects that outweigh any benefit from resveratrol.

Two glasses of red wine forming a heart.

-- Red wine and heart health --
Red wine flowing in the shape of a heart.

In addition, information from the Mayo Clinic shows that various studies on the effects of red wine and polyphenols have produced mixed results. In fact, some evidence shows that red wine may not be of greater benefit than other types of alcoholic beverages. This would indicate that the alcohol in all drinks might have some effect on heart and artery health. The clinic also lists flavonoids and non-flavonoids as possibly having some health benefits in grapes and wine.

Mayo staff members, writing on the clinic’s Web site, emphasize that much of the laboratory study conducted on resveratrol involved animals such as mice. The evidence of benefits for humans is very limited. This is significant because humans might have to consume large amounts of red wine (several bottles per day) to get the same effect that was produced in lab experiments.

Even after several years of experiment and university research, most medical personnel still recommend drinking red wine in moderation or no drinking at all! According to the Mayo Clinic and other sources of expert medical opinion, large amounts of red wine have not been determined to be beneficial, yet.

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