Emerging evidence favours alcohol and fruits for cardioprotection

30 September 2019

30 September

Data supports the recommendation to incorporate red wine and grapes into a heart-healthy diet.

Tiffany Hionas

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) ranks highly among non-communicable diseases (NCD), with non-communicable diseases being a primary cause of deaths globally, accounting for 17 million deaths worldwide. Over the next 20 years, this number is projected to increase by 6 million annually.

Lifestyle changes play a significant role in ameliorating the adverse effects, including smoking cessation, increasing physical exercise and consuming a dietary pattern that incorporates fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.

Polyphenols, a class of phytonutrients, present in many nuts, fruits, vegetables and wine are characterised into two distinct groups; flavonoids and non-flavonoids. Grapes and berries comprise of an abundant source of flavonoids, mitigating heart risks and providing antioxidant effects.

Further emerging evidence has shown that grapes can have favourable effects on blood lipids. Increased low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL- C), known as ‘bad’ cholesterol raises chances of heart risks, whereas reduced high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C), known as ‘good’ cholesterol, is considered a protective factor against heart disease.  Grapes are considered to increase ‘good’ HDL and lower ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol.

Oxidative stress; a process which takes place in the body, occurs when there is an imbalance between free radical activity and antioxidant activity. It can cause damage to fatty tissues, DNA and protein in the body. Superoxide is a recognised marker of oxidative stress. Human studies have documented reductions in superoxide production and a decrease in oxidatively induced DNA damage when there is an increase of grape consumption.

On a lighter note, alcoholic beverages look to be another form of cardioprotection. In an article in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, Stockley emphasises evidence to suggest the relationship between light to moderate drinkers and positive impacts on human health. It is well documented that light to moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. However, the risk of negative impacts can increase when alcohol consumption increases from light to moderate to heavy.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) backs this evidence, recognising that both pattern and intake of alcohol have influenced its relationship with cardiovascular diseases.

Other epidemiological studies have suggested that wine reduces its risk, and when combined with the core nutritious components of a Mediterranean style diet, which are rich in containing phenolic compounds, the risk of CVD is much lower.



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