Wine Over Beer, Mixed Drinks For a Healthy Heart?

Women who drank a small glass of wine -- not beer or other spirits -- daily for a year generally had healthier heartbeats, according to a Swedish study. Stockholm researchers studied how the daily consumption of alcohol affected some 100 women (under age 75) who had surgery for blocked arteries or survived a heart attack.

A year later, a heart tracing was taken over 24 hours during routine activities in all the participants to test their heart rate variability (which measures the changes in time intervals between heartbeats). A decreased variability is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and death. That means, for example, the heart is less able to quicken the blood flow throughout the body during exercise.

Women who drank at least 5 grams of alcohol daily had the highest degree of heart rate variability. However, those who drank no alcohol at all had the lowest amount of variability. Also, variability was tops among those who drink wine. And, beer and other alcoholic drinks had little impact at all.

As in previous studies, Swedish researchers couldn't pin down exactly how wine provides this benefit (or if patients drank red or white wine). I suspect it has much to do with resveratrol, a compound that naturally occurs in grapes and a few other plants that belongs to a family of compounds known as polyphenols that combat damaging free radicals in the body.

But before you go out and stock your pantry with wine, consider this: While drinking about one glass of red wine each day may yield some benefit, drinking two or more glasses (of wine or any alcoholic beverage) may offset the benefit and actually increase your risk of certain cancers. Moreover, those with a history of diabetes and hypertension should limit their intake of alcohol and those who suffer from liver disease or abuse alcohol should not drink it at all.

For that matter, I do not advocate drinking red wine at all as I'm convinced the alcohol contained in it is poisonous and will unbalance your hormones.

BBC News February 15, 2005

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