March 19, 2004 -- Those who enjoy a glass of sherry as an aperitif or after-dinner drink now have a new reason to toast their good health. New research suggests that Spanish sherries share many of the same heart-healthy benefits associated with red wines.
Researchers say sherries are considered to fall somewhere in between the two major types of wine -- red and white -- and have been neglected in recent studies that looked at the potential cardiovascular health benefits of alcohol consumption and wines.
In the study, Spanish researchers tested four common types of sherries and found that they all produced significant decreases in cholesterol levels and increases in the proportion of "good" HDL (high density lipoprotein) cholesterol in laboratory rats.
"This paper shows that in addition to typical red and white wines, sherries should be included in the list of wines with beneficial physiological effects following moderate consumption," writes researcher Felix Elorza of Labosur, a laboratory of food and agriculture, in Seville, Spain.
Wines produced in the Jerez region of Spain, known worldwide as sherries, are basically white wines that have been fortified and oxidized, which produces color changes.
Sherry Lowers Cholesterol Levels
In the study, researchers examined the effects of drinking moderate amounts of four typical Spanish sherries produced in Andalucia, known generically as oloroso, manzanilla, fino, and amontillado, in healthy laboratory rats. All of these wines are produced from the same grape, called the palomino.
The rats enjoyed roughly the human equivalent of a five-ounce pour of sherry, delivered via injection rather than a glass, every day at 4 p.m. for two months. Control rats were given a similar dose of water or alcohol.
The study showed that rats that got the sherry experienced a decrease in cholesterol levels and an increase in good cholesterol, but no changes in cholesterol profiles were seen in those who got water or alcohol.
The study appears in the current issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Researchers also found that all of the Spanish sherries modified cholesterol levels to a similar degree despite their differences in alcohol content. They say those results suggest that it's certain compounds in the palomino grape that are responsible for sherry's heart-healthy benefits rather than the alcohol.