Dr Paul Clayton 2004
The root of much heart and vascular disease is now widely reckoned to be endothelial dysfunction (ED), a chronic inflammatory condition that afflicts the blood vessels and is caused by such factors as smoking and a poor diet. ED is known to respond particularly well to flavonoids, the health-promoting compounds found in such foods as fruits, berries, tea – and chocolate. In fact, given the way we eat, it is likely that for many of us tea and chocolate are the main sources of these vital phytonutrients.
If flavonoids really are heart-healthy, then red wine should be the healthiest of alcoholic beverages – and so it would appear. A little alcohol has long been known to be cardio-protective, partly because it causes vasodilation (it makes the blood vessels open up); but some drinks are clearly more equal than others.
A recent trial pitching red wine against gin suggested that wine does indeed have heart health benefits over other alcoholic drinks. The new study, carried out by scientists at Jefferson Medical College in the US and at the University of Barcelona, found that both drinks had
anti-inflammatory effects – but red wine reduced levels of inflammatory substances (such as C-reactive protein, CRP) in the blood far more effectively than did gin(1).
According to the lead researcher Professor Emmanuel Rubin,’It’s clear from these results that while drinking some form of alcohol lowers inflammatory markers, red wine has a much greater effect than gin.’ In other words, this means that moderate consumption of red wine should reducethe risk of heart attacks and strokes – and there are plenty of epidemiological studies which show exactly this.
Red wine is a particularly good source of flavonoids – but while dark chocolate combines flavonoids with calories, red wine (obviously) combines them with alcohol. Previous studies have already demonstrated that non-alcoholic red wine is just as cardio-protective(2); so if you want a healthy heart and a slim waist, and don’t drink alcohol – then it looks as if a well-designed supplement containing good levels of flavonoids should be equally protective.
What is ‘a good level’? Judging by Professor Rubin’s stringent regime (2 glasses of red wine per day for 28 days),400 mg /day should be more than ample.
- Rubin E et al, Atherosclerosis 175(1):117-23, 2004
- Stocker R and O’Halloran RA, Am. J. Clinical Nutrition 79(1): 123-130, 2004