There’s a good chance you’ve seen the news reports that seem to contradict each other. One says wine is good for your heart, and another says slow your pour.
So let’s take a closer look at the link between wine intake and heart disease.
Wine in Other Cultures
For several decades, we have known that certain populations in the world, such as France, seems to have less heart disease despite eating more saturated fats. One explanation for this finding (referred to as the “French paradox”) was the high consumption of red wine in these populations, leading to speculation that red wine could somehow prevent heart disease.
In fact, many studies have shown that so-called “moderate” alcoholic intake (one drink a day for women, or 2 or less for men) seems to lead to less chronic disease and a longer life span than those who drink heavily, or not at all. Of course, these are only observational (not randomized) studies, so there is always controversy about whether other factors could also play a role.
Although wine contains many heart-protective antioxidants, the component which was suggested to be particularly protective is resveratrol. Animal studies have shown that high doses of this antioxidant can prevent chronic disease. Although the studies were not truly applicable to humans (due to extremely high doses of resveratrol), this led to the widespread notion that red wine is particularly “heart healthy”.
Unfortunately, no other studies have been able to show that any particular agent in red wine makes it better than other types of alcohol in the prevention of chronic disease. A 2014 study confirms this, as these researchers measured the amount of resveratrol in elderly Spaniards, to confirm their consumption of red wine. They found no relationship between wine consumption and longevity, heart disease, or cancer.
What We Know
What can we conclude about wine intake and heart disease? First of all, you should ask your doctor about how alcohol could interact with your specific health conditions and overall risk profile.
Here are some other key points backed by the evidence:
- Moderate alcohol use, as defined above, does seem to have a protective effect against chronic disease and increased longevity, compared to heavy drinkers or nondrinkers.
- However, no particular type of alcohol, including wine, has clearly been shown to be superior concerning its protective effect. Certainly, wine (red or white), with less alcohol and more antioxidants than other types of alcohol, would seem to be a reasonable choice for those who choose to drink alcohol.
- Because the protective effect of alcohol is not conclusive, there is not enough evidence to recommend that someone start drinking alcohol regularly simply for the health benefits. Other lifestyle issues, such as a healthy diet, regular exercise, and weight maintenance are far more important.
- In very detailed studies, there does not seem to be any specifically elevated risk associated with mild or moderate alcohol use. So those who choose to drink should focus on the quantity we drink, and making it part of an overall healthy lifestyle.
- Increasing use beyond “moderate” can increase the risk of complications and chronic illness.
If you decide to keep or add alcohol into your lifestyle, do it for your enjoyment, not necessarily for your health – and always in moderation!
And for more specific advice, check with your doctor.
This article was originally published on The Heart Health Doctors, a blog written by OhioHealth cardiologists, Kanny Grewal, MD, and Anne Albers, MD.
Dr. Kanny Grewal has been with OhioHealth Heart & Vascular Physicians since 1997 and is currently the system chief of cardiac imaging for OhioHealth. He practices at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital, specializing in cardiac imaging, including echocardiography, nuclear imaging and cardiac CT imaging. His clinical interest includes heart disease prevention and heart valve disease, but he enjoys providing consultations on all aspects of cardiology. He is cofounder of an online blog on heart prevention, www.hearthealthdocs.com. He is currently on the board of directors of the Columbus Medical Association. Dr. Grewal is an avid runner and also enjoys cycling and golf.