wine and heart health

  1. Alcohol can cancel out wine's heart benefits

    Wine without alcohol is better for your heart

    We've heard a lot about the supposed benefits of booze over the years, especially wine -- so much that I worry people might actually start to drink because they think it's healthy.

    And that's simply not the case.

    There are much better ways to get the health benefits people associate with drinking, and a new study makes my case perfectly by showing how alcohol-free wine is better for your heart than the real thing.

    In a series of tests, 10 ounces of alcohol-free red wine lowered blood pressure in men with either diabetes or three risk factors for heart disease.

    Those levels fell by an average of 6 points on the systolic ("top number") and 2 points on the diastolic ("bottom number"), or enough to lower the risk of heart disease by 14 percent and stroke by 20 percent, statistically speaking.

    When the same men spent four weeks drinking regular wine, on the other hand, their BP levels barely budged. And when they drank gin, their BP levels didn't change at all.

    This study offers some pretty clear evidence that the heart-healthy benefits often attributed to booze in general aren't from the alcohol -- they're from the polyphenols and antioxidants found in wine, and that the alcohol can actually cancel out most if not all of those benefits.

    But if you really want to give yourself a boost, don't waste your time with wine -- alcohol-free or otherwise. Many of the studies on resveratrol and the other nutrients in wine use very high levels of the stuff -- so high that you'd have to drink hundreds of glasses a day to get those same amounts.

    Normally, I'm all for getting nutrients from diet. But in this case, it's not only impossible -- it would be dangerous or deadly to even try. So if you want resveratrol or any of the other nutrients in wine, don't get them from a wineglass.

    Get them from a quality supplement instead.

  2. Even drunks live longer

    It's beyond dispute at this point: Drinkers live longer, better, healthier lives than nondrinkers.

    Even out-and-out drunks live longer.

    That last bit may surprise you, but a new study finds that drinking any amount--even a lot--is better than not drinking at all, because heavy drinkers live longer than abstainers.

    Don't take that as an excuse to put your liver to the test night after night, though--because the study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research also found that moderate drinkers live longest of all, and by far.

    Researchers from the University of Texas at Austin followed 1,824 subjects for 20 years, then adjusted for just about every life expectancy-related variable you can think of: gender, age, physical activity, obesity, smoking, depression, socioeconomic status, friendships, social support, marriage, and even overall well-being.

    And yet despite all those adjustments, they found that even the heaviest drinkers outlived the nondrinkers. In fact, the researchers say 69 percent of the nondrinkers died during the study period... versus 60 percent of the heavy drinkers.

    That's not too surprising if you're familiar with the research--one study last year even found that people who drink a full bottle of wine a night have better heart health and a lower risk of heart attack and stroke than non-drinkers. (Read about it here.)

    But as I mentioned earlier, moderate drinking is even better, and this new study proves it again: Only 41 percent of them died during the study period.

    For the purposes of this new study, moderate drinking was defined as up to three alcoholic beverages a day. But here's a better rule of thumb: If you're drunk, it's not moderate.

    There are just two flaws with this study: One is the large number of men (63 percent), which makes it a little harder to draw conclusions about female drinkers. And two, the researchers weren't able to include people who never, ever drank--only former drinkers who quit.

    The teetotaler crowd likes to argue that former drinkers may simply be people who are now too sick to drink--or former drinkers who are now paying the price for their lifestyle.

    But other studies have found repeatedly that even lifelong abstainers aren't as healthy--and don't live as long--as moderate drinkers.

    It's easy to see why--because moderate drinking has been proven to boost cardiovascular health, lower the risk of diabetes, ward off dementia and even fight off anxiety and depression.

    So, raise your glass and drink to a longer life.

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