Around 200 years back, one Irish medical researcher noticed that angina or chest pain in layman’s term was not so prevalent in France compared to countries like Ireland. According to that doctor, it was the French way of living and their unique habits that make them less vulnerable to any cardiovascular condition.
However, it’s also important to note that French people usually consume plenty of cheese and butter as part of their normal diet, and it was probably even more fat-filled than that of today. Considering this fact, their relatively low heart disease rate is quite surprising, and it’s known as the French paradox in the history of modern medicine. Some studies suggested that a widespread presence of red wine in the common French diet can be responsible for such phenomena, and the wine industry can’t agree more! Especially the south France region, where severe heart conditions are even rarer, is famous for lifestyle and diet that matches with other Mediterranean parts where red wine is almost a staple drink.
A few research indicated that red wine can be even more beneficial when consumed with a balanced meal and offers enormous health benefits that other types of alcoholic drinks don’t. In some countries, wines are more popular than liquors and beers, and several studies found a lower coronary disease rate in those wine-drinking parts of the world.
Wines, especially the red variant, contain heart-healthy substances that help in relaxing blood vessel walls. They further prevent LDL oxidation (low-density lipoprotein, or more popularly called “bad cholesterol”), which is the initial stage before plaque formation inside the arteries. These compounds are known as flavonoids, a specific type of micronutrient, and part of the polyphenols family, which is responsible for the distinct color and aroma of red wine. Polyphenols found in red wine include heart-healthy quercetin, epicatechins, and resveratrol, and these are not very common in white wine; hence, when it comes to cardiovascular benefits, red wine tops the list. However, that doesn’t mean that white wine comes with no benefits as studies suggest that it consists of ingredients that promote coronary health as well, albeit not to the extent of red wine.
Now, since experts often attribute wine’s health benefits to its polyphenol profile, research has been conducted on the dealcoholized types also. Dealcoholized wine is a specific kind of wine which forms when ethanol content is removed after fermentation, but the entire polyphenol profile is preserved. Researchers found that dealcoholized wine assists in increasing nitric oxide levels and reducing insulin resistance, which in turn, leads to relaxed arteries and subsequently a noticeable drop in blood pressure.
Beer also contains a somewhat identical polyphenol profile, though in a lesser amount. Around 80% of phenolic compounds of beer are the direct products of barley malt, and the rest comes from hops.
Though it’s crucial to remember that the polyphenol content we get from any alcoholic drink is a small part of what we need and get from other plant sources like apples, blueberries, etc. on a regular basis. For instance, having one serving of blueberry will provide significantly higher polyphenols compared to a glass full of red wine. It is also found that mere polyphenol is not the only active element that offers the total health benefit, the ethanol part of red wine is also an important factor.
While red wines and other spirits and beers may have a beneficial impact on human health, no epidemiological research has been done to confirm that any alcoholic beverage, regardless of its kind, can effectively reduce the risk of coronary conditions. Though it has been observed that moderate consumption of all types of spirits and wines may improve blood sugar and other cardiovascular metrics. Individuals who drink moderately are around 30% less likely to have any severe cardio situation comparing non-drinkers, a study found. It does not, however, specify the type of drink – so that means, it is the alcohol that impacts health overall, and one’s drink preferences do not matter. The study further suggested that how frequent one drinks may affect the result as well.
Hope this brief piece has been able to break some urban myths of alcohol’s so-called harmful effect on human health. Science and research show that not only they are beneficial when taken in moderation, but also can effectively reduce cardiovascular risks up to a great extent. American Heart Association also said that intake of one or two drinks daily is directly linked with reduced heart disease risk in women, if implemented by a healthy and balanced diet, in a recently published paper on dietary guidelines for Americans.