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How Red Wine Helps the Heart

Resveratrol in Red Wine May Prevent Immature Fat Cells From Maturing
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Red Wine and Blood Vessel Cells

In the second study, researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa found that red wine enhanced the health of the cells in blood vessels. The research team studied 15 healthy adults with a mean age of 29 years who agreed to consume 250 mL (8.5 ounces or two servings) of red wine everyday for three consecutive weeks. The participants provided blood samples at the beginning and end of the three-week study period so that researchers could evaluate blood vessel function.

The researchers write that "daily red wine consumption for 21 consecutive days significantly enhanced vascular endothelial function," which means it improved the health of the cells lining the blood vessels, which then improves blood flow and heart health. Drinking red wine every day also helped reduce cell death or what is known as apoptosis.

"The prevalence of cardiovascular disease is low in populations that consume large amounts of red wine," they write. "Moderate consumption of red wine provides cardiovascular protection, but the mechanisms that underlie this protection are unclear."

The researchers suggest that red wine increases nitric oxide bioavailability and triggers a cellular communication process necessary for blood vessels to function. Endothelial cells lining the interior of the blood vessels rely on nitric oxide to signal to the vessel tissue to relax, which aids in blood flow. Red wine, the researchers report, facilitates cellular communication that then activates this process.

In an accompanying editorial to both studies, researchers from the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md., suggest clinical trials are needed to measure the effect of red wine and to assess whether the compounds in red wine can reverse or attenuate established cardiovascular disease.

Resveratrol "acts both indirectly (through adipose tissue) and directly (through endothelial cells) to prevent cardiovascular disease," they write. The two studies provide "new insights into the mechanisms underlying the potential benefits of resveratrol in metabolic disease." However, they caution, questions remain about red wine's biological properties and mechanisms.

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