Red wine 'suspends' dangers of smoking
- Monday 1 September 2003
The 'harmful effect of one cigarette was suspended' when volunteers drank two 250ml glasses of red wine at the same time as smoking, John Lekakis and Christos Papamichael of University Hospital in Athens told the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Vienna yesterday.
The polyphenols in red wine and not alcohol cause the effect. Numerous sets of research have found that red wine polyphenols block production of a natural chemical called endothelin-1. This chemical is an important factor in heart disease because it causes blood vessels to contract, increasing blood pressure and the danger of a heart attack.
A British cardiologist, Dr William McCrea of the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, regularly prescribes two glasses of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon a day to cardiac patients, finding this greatly reduces the risk of a second heart attack.
One cigarette, smoked intensively, was enough to damage arterial function for up to an hour afterwards, the Greek researchers said. An intake of polyphenols at the same time counteracted that effect.
Dr Lekakis told the meeting that his team had measured the function of the arteries of volunteers - who all smoked - after they drank alcohol, after they drank non-alcoholic wine and when they did not drink.
For the third part of the experiment, the volunteers drank the same wine with the alcohol removed. Again the harmful effects of smoking were absent in the arteries.
The research took no account of other ill-effects of smoking, including its role in causing cancer.
'It is important that our findings are not misinterpreted,' Dr Lekakis said. 'This doesn't prove that regular consumption of red wine could possibly attenuate the harmful effect of chronic smoking.'
The wine used in the experiment was Greek red wine. It is understood from other research that Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, is highest in polyphenols.