Red Wine Counteracts Cigarette Smoking

Rich Benefits of Antioxidants Found in Red Wine Reduce Damage From Cigarette Smoking

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Sept. 4, 2003 -- Is it a smoker's dream? Red wine offsets the bad effects of cigarette smoking, a new study shows.

Just don't take the news at face value, researchers stress. Rather, the study shows the benefits of antioxidants found in wine -- protecting cells from the most serious damage, they say.

Their report comes from the European Society of Cardiology, meeting this week in Vienna.

In Taste Tests ...

In their report, researchers share results from a small study, using "a famous Greek red wine, rich in polyphenols, which are powerful antioxidants," says researcher John Lekakis, with Alexandra University Hospital in Athens, in a news release.

"We managed to remove alcohol without affecting any other constituent, producing non-alcoholic red wine," he says.

In taste tests, researchers had determined that the normal wine and the nonalcoholic version "had similar flavor, colour and taste, except for their alcohol content," he says. "This means the volunteers could not distinguish which type of red wine they consumed each time."

2 Drinks Does It

In the test they report on -- involving just 16 adults -- they looked at effects of cigarette smoking on arteries on three occasions:

  • After smoking one cigarette, which is known to cause artery dysfunction
  • After drinking two glasses of red wine and smoking one cigarette
  • After drinking two glasses of red wine -- minus the alcohol content -- and smoking one cigarette

Turns out, alcohol content didn't matter. Two glasses of red wine -- from either bottle -- within 60 minutes of smoking one cigarette countered the effects of cigarette smoking on artery function, Lekakis reports.

"Since the presence or absence of alcohol on the two types of wine didn't influence the results, we can conclude that constituents of red wine other than alcohol are responsible for the reversal of arterial dysfunction caused by smoking," he says in the release.

Powerful Phenols

Don't misconstrue his results, Lekakis says. "This doesn't prove that regular consumption of red wine could possibly [stop] the harmful effect of chronic smoking." Drinking two glasses of red wine for every cigarette smoked is not a wise idea.

However, red wine contains antioxidants -- phenols -- so powerful that they can counteract something so harmful as smoking. That's his message, says Lekakis.

This information is very useful in understanding how cigarette smoking damages arteries, he says. Also, it could lead to other discoveries of substances capable of reversing cigarette smoking's harmful effects.

SOURCE: News release, European Society of Cardiology Congress 2003, Vienna, Aug. 30 - Sept. 3, 2003.

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