Sept. 6, 2012 -- Much research has touted the health benefits that come from drinking moderate amounts of red wine.
Now, a new study may extend some of these benefits to teetotalers. Non-alcoholic red wine may be even more effective at lowering blood pressure in men who are high risk for heart attack. The study findings appear in Circulation Research.
The study included 67 men who had diabetes or three or more heart disease risk factors. When the men drank red wine with alcohol, their blood pressure went down a little, and there was no change in blood pressure levels when they drank gin.
Does the Alcohol in Wine Knock Out its Blood Pressure Benefits?
The real health benefits in red wine may be found in powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, not the alcohol. In fact, the alcohol in red wine may dampen its blood pressure-lowering potential. In the study, the red wine with alcohol and non-alcoholic wine contained equal amounts of polyphenols.
The researchers were able to link polyphenol levels to a boost in men's levels of nitric oxide, which helps lower blood pressure. Nitric oxide helps blood vessels relax and allows more blood to reach your heart and organs.
During the study, the men ate similar diets and drank either 10 ounces of red wine, 10 ounces of non-alcoholic red wine, or 3 ounces of gin. All of the men tried each diet/beverage combination for four weeks.
"The non-alcoholic part of the wine -- namely polyphenols -- exert a protective effect on the cardiovascular system," says researcher Ramon Estruch, MD, PhD of the University of Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain. "Polyphenols also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties that may be useful to prevent other disease such as diabetes."
He predicts that more people will turn to non-alcoholic wine in the future.
An Alternative for Some
This is welcome news for people who can't or don't want to drink alcohol, says Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Although some alcohol is thought to be good for you, too much alcohol can increase blood pressure levels.
"Certain people don't want to drink alcohol, so here we have an alternative way for them to get the heart health benefits," she says. "It's not so much the alcohol as it is the polyphenols in red wine."
Other alcoholic drinks have also been shown to have health benefits, but they may do so differently than red wine, Steinbaum says.
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