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Eat For Health: Red Wine for Heart Health?

Posted Sep 11 2008 2:15am

Alcohol is not actually heart-healthy; it simply has anti-clotting effects, much like aspirin. Researchers have found that even moderate consumption of alcohol, including wine, interferes with blood clotting and thereby reduces heart attacks in high-risk populations, such as people who eat the typical, disease-promoting, American diet. Thinning the blood with alcohol or aspirin is not health-enhancing unless you are eating the typical heart-attack inducing diet. Once you are protected from heart attacks and strokes with nutritional excellence, the blood thinning only adds more risk in the form of gastrointestinal bleeding or a hemorrhagic stroke. Red wine contains some beneficial compounds such as flavonoids and resveratrol, a potent antioxidant in the skin of grapes associated with a number of health benefits. Of course, grapes, raisins, berries, and other plant foods also contain these beneficial compounds. One does not have to drink wine to gain these benefits.

Moderate drinking is defined as a maximum of one drink per day for women and two drinks for men. Consuming more than this is associated with increased fat around the waist and other significant health problems.1 Even a moderate amount of alcohol may also increase the risk of breast cancer in susceptible women.2 The other problem with alcohol, especially more than one drink a day, is it can create mild withdrawal sensations the next day. These sensations are commonly mistaken for hunger, which leads people to eat more than is necessary. Because of this, moderate drinkers are usually overweight. Furthermore, recent studies have also shown that even moderate alcohol consumption is linked to a significantly increased incidence of atrial fibrillation, a condition that can lead to stroke.3

Overall, it is safer to eat a diet that will not permit heart disease. Don’t rely on alcohol to decrease the potential of blood to clot. Strive to avoid the detrimental effects of alcohol and protect yourself from heart disease with nutritional excellence. Having one alcoholic drink or one glass of wine is not a major risk, nor is it a major health asset. However, if consumed in excess, it can develop into a major health issue.

1. Dallongeville J, Marecaux N, Ducmetiere P, et al. Influence of alcohol consumption and various beverages on waist girth and waist-to-hip ratio on a sample of French men and women. J Obes. Relat. Metab. Disord. 1998;22(12):1178-1183.

2. Dumitrescu RG, Shields PG. The etiology of alcohol-induced breast cancer. Alcohol. 2005; 35(3):213-225.

3. Frost L, Vestergaard P. Alcohol and risk of atrial fibrillation or flutter: a cohort study. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(18):1993-1998. Mukamal KJ, Tolstrup JS, Friberg J, et al. Alcohol consumption and risk of atrial fibrillation in men and women: the Copenhagen City Heart Study. Circulation. 2005;112(12):1736-1742.

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