It is believed that the French have less incidence of heart disease due to their love of wine, particularly red wine, despite their high fat diets. Hence, scientists and doctors conducted research to understand how red wine can prevent coronary artery disease, a condition attributed to heart attacks.
Red wine contains polyphenols which are antioxidants that may increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and protect against the buildup of cholesterol. A specific polyphenol called resveratrol comes from the skin of grapes that are used to make wine. Resveratrol, specifically, has been the subject of studies associated with the heart health benefits of red wine. Red wine is fermented with the grape skins much longer than white wine, therefore, red wine contains more resveratrol.
Resveratrol in red wine may be beneficial in preventing heart disease, however, research on mice indicates that one would have to drink over 100 glasses of wine per day to get enough resveratrol to realize any benefits. That’s the equivalent of about 20 bottles of wine per day! Obviously, drinking that much alcohol is impractical and extraordinarily unhealthy.
According to various studies, moderate amounts of all types of alcohol (beer, wine, distilled spirits) can benefit your heart by raising HDL cholesterol, reducing formation of blood clots, preventing artery damage caused by high levels of HDL, and may improve the function of the layer of cells that line your blood vessels.
The American Heart Association recommends drinking alcohol in moderation which means two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. Too much alcohol consumption can raise the levels of triglycerides in the blood, lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, and an increased calorie intake. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can lead to stroke, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia, and sudden cardiac death.
With regard to the French, experts now believe that there are other factors that contributed to their apparent heart health, such as lifestyle and dietary differences, as well as an earlier underreporting of heart disease deaths by French physicians.
The best defense against heart disease is practicing a healthy lifestyle that includes consistent exercise, a heart-healthy diet, and regular checkups with your doctor. You may also include a glass of wine or an alcoholic drink, if you are a healthy adult.