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One Thing Red Wine Can’t Do

Study: It Doesn’t Lower Blood Pressure, but Does It Still Help the Heart?
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Red Wine and Heart Health: Study Details continued...

"No," Botden says. "I don't think something else in red wine causes a decrease in blood pressure since previous human studies showed no effect of red wine drinking on blood pressure."

The same polyphenols she tested in people, when tested in animals, did produce a blood pressure decrease, she says.

In other studies done in people, polyphenols from red wine seem to work by improving the health of the cells lining the blood vessels, in turn improving blood flow and heart health. One possibility, she says, is that perhaps more severe problems in the health of the blood vessel linings may be needed before the red wine polyphenols affect the blood pressure.

Red Wine and Heart Health: Another Expert's View

The findings don't surprise Arthur Klatsky, MD, a senior consultant in cardiology at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. He has researched the relationship between drinking alcoholic beverages and health since 1977.

"I don't think there is any substantial thought by experts that lowering of blood pressure is the mechanism for [red wine reducing] heart disease," he tells WebMD. He reviewed the findings for WebMD but was not involved in the study.

Among other explanations, experts say substances in red wine may benefit heart health by increasing good (HDL) cholesterol or producing anti-clotting actions, Klatsky says.

Looking at the big picture, "polyphenols may play a subsidiary function in reducing the risk of coronary artery disease," Klatsky says. He says they may be less important than the alcohol.

What is known, he says, is that heavy drinking raises blood pressure. Studies about light drinking and blood pressure lowering have mixed results, he says. Most show no effect, although some show a slight reduction.

This study was presented at a medical conference. The findings should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the "peer review" process, in which outside experts scrutinize the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

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