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Wine drinking reduces risk of second heart attack

Middle-aged men who drink two glasses of red wine a day after suffering a heart attack reduce their risk of another heart attack by more than 50%, a study has found.

Research published today in the Journal of the American Heart Association followed 353 men, aged 40-60, who had already had a heart attack. Some drank wine in varying quantities and some abstained.

Over a four-year period, this group suffered a further 104 cardiovascular complications, including heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Thirty-six of these happened to the abstainers, 34 to men who drank fewer than two glasses of wine a day, 18 among those who drank around two glasses per day, and 16 among those who drank an average of four to five glasses daily. One glass of wine was defined as 120 ml. 90% of the wine drunk was red.

This inverse relationship between wine drinking and risk of cardiovascular complication was shown to be independent of other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol. Nor was there any significant difference in the severity of prior heart attack, medications used or diet among the different drinking groups.

Dr Michel de Logeril of the University of Grenoble, who heads the research group that published these findings, said advice about the potential health benefit of wine needs to be included in the context of general information regarding a cardioprotective diet.

‘Most of my patients understand the message of moderation’, de Logeril told decanter.com, ‘but the question would be very different for the general population, particularly the young.’ He cautions against extending these results to other groups such as those younger than 40, or women.

His research efforts are now focused on trying to unravel the secret behind wine’s protective mechanism by means of studies in both humans and animals. ‘We already have crucial data’ he said.

There have been numerous projects investigating why red wine reduces the risk of heart disease. In 2001 scientists at Queen Mary College in London 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. The same tests carried out on mammals with white wine or rosé extracts had no effect.

Written by Jamie Goode2 September 2002

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