Red wine has long been touted as beneficial to cardiovascular health, but a research study from the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona has found that non-alcoholic red wine may actually have stronger effects.
The study involved 67 men who have either diabetes or at least three cardiovascular risk factors such as family history, obesity, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure. After a two week detox period, each man was asked to spend four weeks drinking prescribed amounts of either non-alcoholic red wine, regular red wine, or gin. After the four weeks were up, the men switched to a different beverage for the next four weeks, and finally finished with four weeks of the third beverage.
Researchers found that the non-alcoholic red wine lowered blood pressure significantly. The average drop was 6mmHg for systolic pressure and 2mmHg for diastolic pressure. This represents a risk reduction of up to 20% for stroke and 14% for heart disease. The study did not show significant effects from alcoholic red wine or gin.
Researcher Dr. Ramon Estruch, a senior consultant in the Hospital Clinic’s internal medicine department, believes these results are evidence that it is the antioxidant polyphenols in wine rather than the alcohol which cause the beneficial cardiovascular effects. In fact, the alcohol may lower the beneficial effects of the polyphenols.
Cardiologist Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, director of Women and Heart Disease at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital, welcomes the results because the non-alcoholic wine would be a way for people who can’t or don’t want to drink alcohol to get the beneficial polyphenol effects. “It’s not so much the alcohol as it is the polyphenols in wine,” said Steinbaum, who did not participate in the study.
However, Mayo Clinic cardiologist Dr. Sharonne Hayes thinks the study’s small size and lack of a control group may mean the results are skewed. This research, she explained, generated a good hypothesis to use as a point from which to start new research, but that no conclusions should be drawn just yet. She points to the lack of a detox period between each of the four week beverage-drinking periods as a potential flaw in the research. It is well-accepted that when a person who consumes even moderate amounts of alcohol stops drinking, their blood pressure will rise. The study participants could have had higher blood pressure than they normally do at the beginning of the research, which could create misleading results regarding non-alcoholic wine’s ability to lower blood pressure.
Hayes also pointed out that many previous studies have shown that alcohol is more likely the beneficial substance than polyphenols.
The Barcelona study was published in “Circulation Research” online on September 6th.
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