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You’ve heard about the benefits of drinking red wine, including recent studies that claim red wine improves cardiovascular health.
Scientists and doctors are still trying to understand the connection between red wine and heart health. That means there are a lot of myths about the benefits of drinking red wine. So is drinking red wine actually good for your heart? Let’s separate the myths from the facts.
For more information about heart-healthy practices, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
Red Wine and Heart Health: What You Need to Know
1. Myth: Red wine is an antioxidant.
Fact: It’s true that red wine contains antioxidants, which can improve cholesterol and help you maintain a healthy blood pressure.
You want to make sure, however, you’re not drinking so much red wine that the alcohol counters the protective benefits. If you’re interested in getting more antioxidants in your diet, talk to a dietitian or your doctor about antioxidant-rich foods and supplements.
2. Myth: Red wine lowers cholesterol.
Fact: Keeping your cholesterol within a healthy range is important if you want to reduce your risk of heart disease.
According to a study published in Clinical Nutrition, red wine increases good (HDL) cholesterol. On the flip side, nonalcoholic red wine decreases levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol. LDL levels stayed the same in people who drank alcoholic red wine, so keep this in mind when you order a glass with dinner.
3. Myth: Red wine lowers blood pressure.
Fact: There’s no definitive evidence that red wine lowers blood pressure. In fact, alcohol actually raises blood pressure. But since alcohol tends to relax people, it may lower your blood pressure slightly — although only for a short period of time, and it won’t help with chronic hypertension. Talk to your doctor about other ways you can lower your blood pressure, like exercising moderately and eating a diet rich in healthy fats.
4. Myth: Red wine reduces your risk for heart attack.
Fact: Red wine and other types of alcohol can immediately increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, according to the American Heart Association. This risk, however, decreases over time. As long as you’re consuming a moderate amount of alcohol (one drink per day for women and two drinks for men), red wine will likely not harm your heart in the long run.
On the other hand, consuming heavy amounts of alcohol, including red wine, can increase your risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke. Consider reducing the amount of alcohol you drink to give your body a break.
5. Myth: Red wine is good for everyone.
Fact: Women and men experience alcohol differently, so they should consume it differently. One glass of wine per day (about 5 ounces) is plenty for women, while men shouldn’t drink more than two glasses (about 10 ounces) a day.
We still don’t really know if red wine is good for heart health. Until there’s more information available, it’s best to drink moderately and talk to your doctor. For information about other heart-healthy practices, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute.
— Update: 01-01-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article Non-alcoholic red wine may lower blood pressure from the website www.health.harvard.edu for the keyword wine good for hypertension.
ARCHIVED CONTENT: As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date each article was posted or last reviewed. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Scientific studies, the media, and even some doctors tout the heart health benefits of red wine. But if controlling blood pressure is important to you, consider this the next time you raise your glass: A new study published online in Circulation Research suggests that non-alcoholic red wine may be better at lowering blood pressure than regular red wine. Powerful antioxidants in red wine called polyphenols may be more effective when there’s no alcohol to interfere with them.
“It is a very interesting study with provocative findings,” says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, a cardiologist and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. I would like to believe the results. Of course, it is a small study with a limited duration of follow-up, so the findings do need to be confirmed in other, larger studies that follow patients for a longer period of time.”
In vino veritas
In wine there is truth, said Pliny the Elder in the first century AD. One truth about red wine is that too much can raise blood pressure and increase the risks of cancer, liver disease, and car accidents if you get behind the wheel after drinking.
In moderation, however, drinking red wine increases HDL (“good” cholesterol). It also protects against artery damage, which may lower blood pressure and help prevent heart disease. Polyphenols, in particular, may protect the lining of blood vessels in the heart. But most studies about red wine’s antioxidants have been conducted on animals, and were not able to sort out the contribution from alcohol.
A team of Spanish researchers recruited 67 men between ages 55 and 75, all with diabetes or cardiovascular risk factors. Each man drank red wine daily for four weeks, then drank non-alcoholic red wine daily for four weeks, then drank gin daily for four weeks. The daily amounts were moderate: 10 ounces of wine or three ounces of gin. That’s about two drinks a day.
When the men drank non-alcoholic red wine, their systolic blood pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) decreased on average by 6 points. That’s enough to reduce heart disease risk by 14% and stroke risk by as much as 20%, according to the researchers. There was no change in blood pressure when the men drank gin, and only a small reduction in blood pressure when they drank regular red wine.
Researchers also found that the men’s plasma nitric oxide levels went up when they drank non-alcoholic red wine. That’s a good thing, because nitric oxide relaxes blood vessel walls, allowing better blood flow. The NO levels went up only slightly when the men drank regular red wine, and not at all when they drank gin.
The results of the study look like something to toast: you can get polyphenol and nitric oxide benefits without having to drink alcohol and risk the dangers that come with it. Not so fast, says Dr. Bhatt. “It makes scientific sense, but these findings really need to be confirmed in other studies,” he reminds us.
What the study doesn’t tell us is how non-alcoholic red wine stacks up against regular red wine for preventing heart attacks or other cardiovascular problems. An excellent discussion of the benefits and risks of drinking red wine and other alcoholic beverages is available on The Nutrition Source, a website published by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition.
What you should do
If you’re interested in lowering your blood pressure, Dr. Bhatt says drinking non-alcoholic red wine won’t hurt. “I wouldn’t ever make a clinical recommendation based on just one small study. However, if you happen to like non-alcoholic red wine and drink it anyway, it might be worthwhile to see if it helps your high blood pressure,” he says.
But don’t count on non-alcoholic red wine to lower high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, cautions Dr. Bhatt. Most people need a combination of exercise, a healthy diet, and medications to control high blood pressure.
Moderate exercise for 150 minutes per week and following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet can powerfully lower blood pressure, sometimes making medicines unnecessary. DASH is an eating plan featuring more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; foods with nutrients known to help reduce blood pressure, like calcium, potassium and magnesium; and reduced sodium and saturated fat intake.
High blood pressure is a big problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported last week that a third of all Americans have high blood pressure, and the majority of them don’t have it under control.
Those are sobering facts. If the Spanish study pans out, one possible solution won’t be too hard to swallow.