Cardiovascular System

Throughout the developed world, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death and accounts for up to 50% of all deaths. Considering this, it is of outmost relevance that epidemiological studies are showing consistently a reduced mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD) and other forms of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) by 25-30% in middle-aged and elderly individuals.

Moderate wine drinkers seem to live longer than those who abstain or drink heavily. This widely accepted association is known as the J-curve. The relative risk of dying from CVD is lowest among light to moderate drinkers and greater among abstainers. However, the risk increases steadily with each drink above moderation. Thus, while one or two glasses can be considered “good for your health”, drinking more than the guidelines will not provide more benefits, only more harm!

In a recent most comprehensive meta-analysis, an international research team examined results from 84 longitudinal cohort studies from all over the world comparing drinkers of alcoholic beverages with non-drinkers for the outcomes of overall mortality and mortality from cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD) and stroke as well as incident coronary heart disease and incident stroke.
Meta-analyses for each of these outcomes were performed. The researchers carefully accounted for possible confounding factors.

As result, the cardiovascular mortality risk for drinkers of alcoholic beverages compared to non-drinkers was significantly reduced by 25%. Dose-response analysis revealed that the lowest risk of coronary heart disease mortality occurred with 15-30 g of alcohol a day but for stroke mortality ≤ 15 g of alcohol a day. Very importantly, also with regards to all cause mortality, moderate drinkers had an advantage compared to abstinent individuals: up to 15 g/day, their total mortality risk was 13% lower.
The scientists concluded that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a reduced risk of multiple cardiovascular outcomes and total mortality and further, they suggested that current scientific data indicate causality.

The results of another meta-analysis concerning the biochemical and physiological mechanisms showed that moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (up to 15 g alcohol a day for women and up to 30 g alcohol a day for men) has beneficial effects on a variety of biomarkers linked to the risk of coronary heart disease.



Approximately half of the cardio-protective effects of wine are believed to be due to alcohol itself since it has a beneficial effect on blood lipids.

Vascular disease occurs when bad cholesterol (LDL) is deposited in artery walls and builds up atherosclerotic deposits, eventually rupturing, causing a clot to form which can instantaneously block mostly or completely the flow through the coronary artery. Alcohol stimulates the production of the “good” high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL) which is believed to remove cholesterol deposits from arteries and veins where it can form plaques.

It also reduces the “stickiness” or the clotting together of red blood cells which could form a clot and block the blood flow in an artery (thrombosis) resulting in a heart attack or stroke. In addition, it lowers the fibrinogen level which is a pro-inflammatory, thus alcohol works as an anti-inflammatory agent that affects the blood vessels positively and is involved in delaying the development of atherosclerosis.

Wine, in addition, contains phenolic substances
such as resveratrol, anthocyanins, flavonols and catechins which act as antioxidants and inhibit “bad” LDL cholesterol from being incorporated in the artery wall. These antioxidants also reduce the damage caused by the body's free radicals (toxic waste products) which contribute to causing degenerative diseases in the body such as cancer, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and ageing. Furthermore, rather than the phenolic compounds themselves, their metabolites might be the real key players in cardiovascular and cancer protection. It should be noted that the antioxidant activity in unfermented grape juice is lower than in the finished wine - antioxidant activity increases during fermentation and maturation. Antioxidant levels will depend on the processing, filtering as well as on the variety, vintage, altitude and soil.

The phenolic compounds are also associated with reducing blood clotting and also maintaining the ability of the blood vessel wall to expand and contract.

The findings described in
the above quoted meta-analyses provide the most thorough examination of the literature and strengthen the case for a causal link between alcohol intake and a reduced risk of coronary heart disease, suggesting that the lower risk of heart disease observed among moderate drinkers is caused by the alcoholic beverage itself, and not by other associated lifestyle factors. The scientific evidence is very convincing that regular moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, in particular wine,  can provide cardiovascular benefits in older adults.


Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when vessel walls lose their flexibility causing excess pressure on arterial walls. If the elevated blood pressure is not reduced, the risk of heart disease, stroke, visual loss, and kidney failure increases. Early detection and treatment is lifesaving. The treatment often involves a modification of lifestyle. It has been a general, long-held belief that consumption of alcoholic beverages, in any form, in any quantity, raises blood pressure, and, therefore, many of those at risk have been advised not to drink at all.

Epidemiological studies suggest a lower risk of morbidity and mortality among lighter drinkers. The investigators found that the association between intake of alcoholic beverages and risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) followed a J-shaped curve, whereas  alcohol drinking is linearly associated with blood pressure, and the CVD risk also increases  linearly according to blood pressure level.  However, several studies indicate that moderate wine consumption does not increase or can even decrease blood pressure. This effect seems mostly due to relaxed blood vessels immediately after consuming alcoholic beverages.
The non-alcoholic elements of wine, such as polyphenols may have additional antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and blood vessel relaxant properties.

International comparisons and some prospective research data suggest that wine is more protective against coronary heart disease (CHD) than liquor or beer. Possibly beneficial non-alcohol compo­nents in wine may exert the extra protection by wine, but a healthier drinking pattern or more favorable risk traits in wine drinkers (such as a healthier lifestyle) may be involved. Heavy drinking or a binge drinking pattern definitely associated with an increased risk of hypertension. Reducing the intake of alcoholic beverages to moderate levels often leads to substantial reduction of elevated blood pressure.

The above summary provides an overview of the topic, for more details and specific questions, please refer to the articles in the database.

Epidemiological studies have suggested an inverse correlation between red wine consumption and the incidence of CVD. However, Champagne wine has not been fully investigated for its cardioprotective potential. In order to assess whether acute and moderate Champagne wine consumption is capable of modulating vascular function, we performed a randomised, placebo-controlled, cross-over intervention trial. We show that consumption of Champagne wine, but not a control matched for alcohol, carbohydrate and fruit-derived acid content, induced an acute change in endothelium-independent vasodilatation at 4 and 8 h post-consumption. Although both Champagne wine and the control also induced an increase in endothelium-dependent vascular reactivity at 4 h, there was no significant difference between the vascular effects induced by Champagne or the control at any…
Atherosclerosis is considered a low-grade inflammatory disease. Polyphenol-rich alcoholic beverages (red wine) have shown a more pronounced antiinflammatory effect than polyphenol-free alcoholic beverages (gin). However, no studies to our knowledge have evaluated the antiinflammatory effects of alcoholic beverages with medium-level polyphenol content such as cava (sparkling wine). We enrolled 20 healthy men (aged 34 +/- 9 y) in a randomized crossover study to receive 30 g ethanol/d as cava or gin for 28 d. Before both interventions, subjects abstained from alcohol for 2 wk. Inflammatory biomarkers of atherosclerosis and expression of adhesion molecules on peripheral leukocytes were measured before and after each intervention. Likewise, dietary intake and exercise were also evaluated. Expression of lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1 (LFA-1), very late activation…
Grain alcohol is a simple molecule (ethanol) but a complex drug. Alcohol has divergent cardiovascular effects depending on the amount consumed. In moderation, alcohol is associated with reduced risk for coronary heart disease, most likely because it increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. Especially in excess, alcohol impairs ventricular function, increases arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, and causes hypertension. The latter is an important consequence but is often overlooked by clinicians treating patients with hypertension. Although more attention has been given to the type of alcohol ingested (e.g., red vs. white wine), the pattern of drinking is far more important. In a study of 1,935 subjects after myocardial infarction, steady drinkers experienced a progressive decline in mortality with increasing consumption, whereas binge…
BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to determine whether relationships between alcohol intake and atherosclerotic risk factors were different in normotensive and prehypertensive persons.MethodsJapanese men aged 35-60 years who showed normal blood pressure (n = 4,778) or prehypertension (n = 9,728) without any drug therapy for hypertension were divided into non, light (/=22 and /=44 g ethanol/day) drinkers. RESULTS: In subjects with prehypertension, body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference were significantly lower and smaller, respectively, in light, heavy and very heavy drinkers than in nondrinkers. In subjects with normal blood pressure, BMI was significantly lower in light and heavy drinkers but not in very heavy drinkers than in nondrinkers, and waist circumference was not significantly different in non,…
The aim of this study was to determine how alcohol consumption influences metabolic syndrome in patients with hypertension. The subjects were 3938 male workers being treated with anti-hypertensive drugs and they were divided into four groups by average ethanol intake [non-, light (/=22 and /=44 g/day) drinkers]. The relationships of alcohol intake with atherosclerotic risk factors and metabolic syndrome were investigated. Waist circumference and hemoglobin A1c were significantly smaller and lower, respectively, in light, moderate, and heavy drinkers than in nondrinkers. Systolic blood pressure and log-converted triglyceride were significantly higher in heavy drinkers than in nondrinkers. HDL cholesterol was significantly higher in all of the drinker groups than in nondrinkers and tended to be higher as alcohol intake increased. Prevalence…


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