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Is Drinking Wine Good for You? Exciting News for Red Wine Lovers

written by: Roma Lightsey, RN, BSN • edited by: Tania Cowling • updated: 7/4/2011

Many people enjoy relaxing with a glass of red wine. Did you know red wine offers some health benefits beyond just being good for your heart? This article describes other benefits of red wine that you may not know about.

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    Red Wine and Your Heart

    According to the Mayo Clinic, certain substances in red wine may help prevent heart disease and protect against artery damage. Resveratrol in particular has received a lot of attention. Resveratrol is a polyphenol, which is an antioxidant that may help protect the lining of the heart's blood vessels. It is found on the skin of grapes used to make wine. Red wine contains more resveratrol than white wine because it is fermented longer with the grape skins. Eating grapes or drinking red or purple grape juice may offer some of the heart healthy benefits of red wine without the alcohol.

    Most research on resveratrol has been done on animals. A study on mice showed that resveratrol may help protect them against obesity and diabetes, which are strong risk factors for heart disease. However, it's important to note that in order to get the same dose of resveratrol used in the study, a person would have to drink over 60 liters of red wine daily. Some resveratrol can be found in blueberries, cranberries and peanuts. Although supplements are available, most of the resveratrol in them cannot be absorbed by the body.

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    Lowers Homocysteine Levels

    Homocysteine is a derivative of amino acids naturally found in the body. When too much is present, free radicals are generated and cause damage to artery walls. Cholesterol begins to build up and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. Cholesterol levels alone do not indicate risk of heart attack; it is possible to have a heart attack with "healthy" cholesterol levels. Research indicates that elevated homocysteine levels greatly increase the risk of a heart attack. Red wine can lower homocysteine levels even in obese individuals, thereby lowering their risk of heart disease.

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    Increases Nitric Oxide Production

    Cells inside your blood vessels produce nitric oxide, which acts as a messenger molecule regulating the relaxation activity of the arteries. When there is adequate nitric oxide, blood vessels can relax and allow blood flow without excess resistance. If there is not enough nitric oxide, the vessels can't relax properly. This leads to high blood pressure and has been linked to diabetes, heart failure, atherosclerosis and infection. Nitric oxide also helps prevent blood clots by preventing platelets from becoming too sticky and forming blood clots.

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    Lowers Cancer Risks

    The risk of some cancers seems to decrease with red wine consumption. The role of red wine in reducing the risk of breast cancer has been documented in many studies; however many people are not aware that a study in Spain found that each glass of red wine consumed daily reduced the risk of lung cancer by 13%. Men who consume four or more glasses of red wine each week have an overall risk reduction of developing prostate cancer by 50%. The risk of the most aggressive forms of prostate cancer can be reduced by 60%

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    Red Wine vs. Other Alcohols

    A study reported by the American Heart Association found that subjects who drank wine had half the risk of dying from coronary heart disease or stroke than those who never drank wine. Beer and liquor drinkers did not experience this benefit. Red wine consumption was associated with a 32% reduction in the risk of atherosclerosis. Regular red wine consumption has been credited with the relatively low incidence of heart disease in France despite their high-fat diet.

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    Cautions

    Alcohol can be addictive and can cause other health problems. Therefore, the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that anyone start drinking alcohol solely for the health benefits. Excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure, liver damage, obesity, high triglycerides, certain cancers and other problems. Too much alcohol over a period of time can lead to cardiomyopathy, in which the heart muscle becomes weakened.

    People who take aspirin daily should consult their health care provider as to whether they should avoid or limit alcohol. Pregnant women should not drink alcohol. Some medications may not mix well with alcohol; consult your pharmacist or health care provider before you drink while taking prescription medications.

    Finally, if you are already a red wine drinker, do so in moderation. Moderate drinking is defined as no more than two drinks daily for men and one drink daily for women. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

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    Here's to Your Health

    Relaxing with a glass of red wine can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke as well as reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. Red wine consumption also helps boost nitric oxide production and reduce homocysteine levels. Evidence also suggests a lower risk of diabetes and blood clots. You can't get these benefits from beer or liquor, so pour a glass of red wine and drink to your health.

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    References

    The Mayo Clinic-http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/red-wine/hb00089

    American Heart Association-http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/111/2/e10

    Health Diaries-http://www.healthdiaries.com/eatthis/10-health-benefits-of-red-wine.html

    Smart Publications-http://www.smart-publications.com/articles/view/heart-healthy-red-wine-natures-source-for-resveratrol-and-flavanoids/