The Effect of Wine on Atherosclerosis
Atherosclerosis, or the narrowing of the blood vessels in the extremities affects millions of people world wide. This process begins when the blood vessels lose their elasticity and begin to become rigid. Over time, the condition degenerates and the plaque that has accumulated on the artery walls breaks off resulting in a heart attack or stroke.
Low Density Lipoprotien (LDL) oxidation in the lipid deposits on arterial walls seems to be one of the most important factors causing atherosclerosis development. This is slowed by High Density Lipoprotiens (HDLs), which remove the free LDL from the blood stream. Moderate alcohol consumption is marked with an increase in HDLs in the blood.
In addition, the tannins in red wine seem to play an active role in slowing the initiation and propagation of atherosclerosis. They do this by stimulating the release of nitric oxide (NO). NO is a vasodialator, which relaxes and increases the diameter of blood vessels. This lessens the likely hood of a blood clot blocking a major artery, causing a heart attack.
There have a number of studies evaluating the relationship between alcohol consumption and atherosclerosis. Studies by Cherubini, Szmitko and Kiechl show decreased risk of atherosclerosis with moderate alcohol consumption.
Cherubini et. al. evaluated epidemiological studies on the role of anti-oxidants on the development of atherosclerosis. They indicated that, flavanoids, a class of molecules prevalent in red wine has beneficial effects on slowing the development of atherosclerosis.
A study by Szmitko and Verma published in the American Journal of Physiology – Heart and Circulatory Physiology, evaluated the relationship between red wine and atherosclerosis. They found that moderate alcohol intake reduced the risk of peripheral vascular, cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease.
The study, Antiathergenic potential of red wine: clinician update found that phenols in red wine seem to interfere with the process that causes the ruptures of plaque on artery walls. This is very important because when plaque breaks away from the artey walls it can block flow to the body or brain, inducing an ischemic stroke.
In a different study by Kiechl et. al., Alcohol consumption and atherosclerosis: what is the relation? Prospective results from the Bruneck Study, they performed ultrasounds on the internal and common carotid arteries. They found a J shaped relationship with alcohol and Peripheral Atherosclerosis, meaning that moderate consumption had the greatest protective effect.
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