Light Drinking Fights Metabolic Syndrome

New Reason Why a Glass of Wine is Good for Your Health

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 05, 2003
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 5, 2003 -- As if wine aficionados needed another healthy reason to raise their glasses, here's a new one from Greek researchers: A glass or two of wine a day may actually lower a person's risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.

Researchers say the findings add to previous evidence that shows drinking moderate amounts of wine can offer a variety of health benefits, especially for the heart. But those benefits quickly evaporate once drinkers begin to overindulge.

The study showed that men and women who drank one to two glasses of wine per day had a 16% lower risk of metabolic syndrome than those who abstained. But those who drank three to four glasses of wine per day had an 81% higher risk of metabolic syndrome, and drinking more than five glasses a day doubled that increase in risk.

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

Researchers say metabolic syndrome is a condition that increases the risk of hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.

People with metabolic syndrome have at least three of the following traits:

  • Waist more than 40 inches around in men or 35 inches in women
  • Blood triglyceride levels of 150 or greater
  • HDL, or "good" cholesterol, less than 40 in men or less than 50 in women
  • Blood pressure of 130/85 or more
  • Fasting blood sugar of 110 or more

Poor diet and lack of physical activity are thought to promote metabolic syndrome, but the association between drinking habits and the condition is unclear.

More Proof on Wine's Healthy Effects

In this study, researcher Demosthenes Panagiotakos of the University of Athens and colleagues collected information on alcohol use and overall health among a large group of men and women with no evidence of heart disease.

The results were presented this week at the European Society of Cardiology Congress 2003 in Vienna, Austria.

Researchers found that 453 of the 2,282 men and women had metabolic syndrome, and about 75% of them were unaware of their condition.

But when the amount of wine the people drank was taken into consideration, researchers found a U-shaped relationship between the amount and frequency of wine drunk and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. That means that those who didn't drink any wine and those who drank the most had the highest risk of metabolic syndrome, while those who drank moderate amounts had a somewhat lower risk.

Researchers say the healthy effects of wine were a little less pronounced when people with diabetes were excluded from the analysis.

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SOURCES: European Society of Cardiology Congress 2003, Vienna, Aug. 30-Sept. 3, 2003. News release, European Society of Cardiology. WebMD Feature: "Do You Have Metabolic Syndrome?"

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