Can you get the health benefits of wine without the alcohol? Red wine is making a lot of news lately for its positive benefits on heart health. Doctors believe it may even be responsible for the so-called French paradox — people in France eat high-fat diets, but have lower rates of heart disease than Americans do. One reason red wine seems to have beneficial effects is that it contains chemicals called flavonoids, which appear to help prevent heart disease. Researchers in California found that even with the alcohol removed, people who drink red wine had an increase in flavonoids in their blood. But the alcohol part of wine also appears to have beneficial effects, raising the level of H-D-L cholesterol — the “good” cholesterol — in the blood.
Doctors participating in the Physicians’ Health Study reported recently in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology that one drink a day can help lower the risk of heart disease. But when consumption surpasses two drinks a day, risks increase for some kinds of cancer. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say before you start drinking for your health, talk to your doctor. For some people, the risks of alcohol outweigh the benefits. And remember that while one drink a day can be helpful, more can be harmful.
Could a drink a day keep the doctor away? One study says alcohol can have beneficial effects. Doctors recently determined that people who drank moderately, about one or two drinks per day, had a lower chance of developing blocked arteries in their legs. This condition results when the arteries in the legs become hardened. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why alcohol works this way. It could be because alcohol improves circulation slightly, dilates blood vessels or raises the level of good cholesterol in the blood.
Researchers will continue studying this to determine how alcohol helps. But before you start drinking more, the researchers say the biggest risk factor for blocked or hardened arteries is smoking. Smokers in the study didn’t get the beneficial effects from alcohol. Heavy drinking isn’t good for you, either, and can cause additional health problems.
The best results were seen with only a drink or two each day. Drinking more isn’t going to have additional health benefits. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center say you should talk to your doctor before putting yourself on the regimen of a drink a day, especially if you don’t already drink. You may have other health problems that could be made worse by alcohol, or alcohol may not have benefits in your case. There are other risks associated with alcohol, like liver disease, alcoholism and some kinds of cancer.