Is Red Wine Really Better Than Other Drinks?

It’s a commonly accepted belief in the medical field that moderate consumption of red wine can be healthy and potentially preventative of cardiovascular disease. Moderate consumption of other spirits are also thought to be potentially beneficial, though not to the degree of red wine (which is thought to be because of the presence of polyphenols in red wine).

A recent study has confirmed that the consumption of one glass of red wine can be beneficial, but surprisingly demonstrated that the effects in the same individual were comparable to other ethanol (alcohol) consumptions. The study also showed that consuming more than one glass in a day leads to more negative than positive effects.

The study was conducted on 13 volunteers (7 men, 6 women), ages 24-47 years, all considered to be in good health and nonsmokers. Each individual “drank wine, ethanol, and water in a randomized, single-blind trial on three occasions 2 wk apart.” This method was to provide a reliable analysis in each individual of the effects of red wine and ethanol on the blood, whether they were beneficial and whether they differed, respectively.

The effects on blood alcohol content for red wine and ethanol were fairly close: “One drink of wine and ethanol increased blood alcohol to 38 ± 2 and 39 ± 2 mg/dl, respectively, and two drinks to 72 ± 4 and 83 ± 3 mg/dl, respectively.” The study went on to show that after one drink of both red wine and ethanol, negative effects such as increased heart rate and muscle sympathetic nerve activity (MSNA) were not present. After two drinks however, both of these effects surfaced from red wine and ethanol consumption, at comparable levels.

After one drink of both red wine and ethanol, it was observed that each individuals blood vessels were dilated, which leads to the positive effect that the heart has to do less work. After the second drink however, because of increased heart rate, this positive effect diminished.

The study states that “the potential benefits of alcohol may relate to its metabolic, antithrombotic, anticoagulant, antioxidant, or anti-inflammatory properties or to effects on hemodynamics, vascular endothelial function, and neurohumoral regulation of the circulation.” More simply, alcohol relaxes blood vessels and thins blood, helping lead to less clotting and a lower occurrence of heart attacks and strokes. Dozens of studies have confirmed these benefits in the past, especially in relation to red wine, and the current study under consideration confirmed these properties to a small degree, both for red wine and ethanol.

The surprising conclusion of the study is that there was little difference between moderate red wine and ethanol consumption in each individual, contradicting the thoughts of many previous studies (that had not done their tests with both red wine and ethanol on a controlled subject). Further research needs to be done on the subject, but this study could potentially lead to dispelling a very commonly held belief (which is supported by the “French paradox,” which refers to their high level of red wine consumption, fatty diet, and lower rate of heart disease) that red wine holds more benefits than other drinks.

Source: Defeat Diabetes Foundation: Spaak, Jonas. Floras, John. et al. AJP Heart and Circulatory Physiology. “Dose-related effects of red wine and alcohol on hemodynamics, sympathetic nerve activity, and arterial diameter.” February 2008.

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