A report published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition on December 28, 2012 reveals that the alcohol content of wine and the polyphenols it contains both contribute to the beverage's cardioprotective effects, but in different ways. The research helps answer the question concerning whether wine's benefits are due to its alcohol content or other factors.
A team from Spain enrolled 67 men who were at high risk of cardiovascular disease due to smoking or other risk factors. Following a two week period during which no alcohol was consumed, the participants were divided to receive red wine, dealcoholized red wine or gin daily for four weeks. This was followed by two similar trials of the beverages not previously received by each subject. Blood and urine samples were collected at the beginning and end of each treatment period, and analyzed for markers of inflammation and other factors.
The researchers found an increase in interleukin-10 (an anti-inflammatory cytokine) and a reduction in macrophage-derived chemokines in association with alcohol, while red wine polyphenols were associated with reduced intercellular adhesion molecule-1 and interleukin-6, as well as other factors. "The phenolic content of red wine may modulate leukocyte adhesion molecules, whereas both ethanol and polyphenols of red wine may modulate soluble inflammatory mediators in patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease," the authors conclude.
In a review of the study, one author commented that "The results strongly indicate an effect of wine polyphenols on inflammation and this is just what we expect from the biochemistry and nutritional effects of fruits and vegetables. The effect of ethanol, on the other hand, likely fits a hormetic mechanism, where low doses regularly supplied are protective while high doses in a single shot are worsening the progression of disease."
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