The study, published in the journal Circulation Research, found that drinking two non-alcoholic glasses of red wine a day can lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease -- but the researchers didn't find the same effects with regular wine.
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Non-alcoholic? Say what? As Spanish researchers report in their study, previous studies have shown that red wine polyphenols (antioxidant compounds) have the potential to lower blood pressure -- but the actual effects of ethanol (from the alcohol in wine) and polyphenols on blood pressure in humans are not yet clear.
Over three sessions lasting four weeks each, the study participants, all men with cardiovascular risk factors or diabetes, drank regular red wine, non-alcoholic wine and gin with their meals. During the regular wine and gin weeks, their blood pressure showed little or no change; following the four-week "booze-free" vino sessions, their blood pressure "decreased significantly."
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In their study, the researchers surmise that this is because virgin wine increased nitric oxide, a chemical that relaxes blood vessels, in the bloodstream. They write that alcohol, on the other hand, "seems to counteract the effects of the non-alcoholic red wine."
However, the researchers do note that their study "has limitations" -- for one, four weeks might not represent the potential effects of long-term consumption. And, as previously noted, all of the participants were men.
"This study demonstrates the power of polyphenols," says Angela Ginn, registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, she adds, it does bring up the questionable effect of alcohol on blood pressure -- but, she says, more studies are needed to follow up on the benefits of non-alcoholic wine.
"Many studies have shown the benefits of a Mediterranean diet, including red wine and mono-unsaturated fats, which are both considered heart healthy in moderation," Ginn says.
Indeed, many previous studies have shown that a glass of red wine a day can be beneficial to your health -- and even your waistline! As HealthySELF previously reported, piceatannol, a compound found in red wine, berries and other fruits, can delay and even stunt fat cell development, according to research published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
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Vino also contains resveratrol, a compound that may play a role in the prevention of heart disease, cancer and other diseases -- and it too may also help blast fat: Women who had a daily glass of alcohol, particularly wine, were 30 percent less likely to gain weight, SELF reported in November 2011. Resveratrol, also present in fiber-filled peanuts and juicy grapes, can also help sharpen your memory, SELF reported in August 2010. Plus, alcohol in vino lowers levels of free fatty acids, high levels of which may lead to type 2 diabetes, SELF reported in December 2010.
The bottom line for now? According to Ginn: "Drinking non-alcoholic red wine shows promise, but why not enjoy red wine in moderation?"
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