Can The Non-Alcohol Compound Resveratrol Improve Cardiovascular Health?

Glass of red wine

Red wine is often cited as the main reason that the French can have a high-fat diet while also having low rates of heart disease. Research has shown that red wine contains a number of compounds that can have a positive effect on a wine drinker’s cholesterol levels.

In order to understand how wine can naturally reduce your cholesterol, it is important to also understand how bad cholesterol and good cholesterol affect heart health.

What is Bad Cholesterol?

The term “bad cholesterol” is often used for low-density lipoprotein (LDL) because this type of cholesterol makes the blockage of arteries more likely and therefore increases the risk of heart disease.

LDL is deposited on arterial walls and causes them to stiffen which results in high blood pressure and heart attacks. Some studies have shown that red wine can reduce LDL by as much as nine percent in healthy study participants.

Red wine contains a polyphenol called resveratrol, which may lower this type of cholesterol.

What is Good Cholesterol?

This is the common term for high-density lipoprotein (HDL). A high level of this type of cholesterol is desirable since it protects arteries from being clogged and damaged; this protection helps to lower a wine drinker’s risk of heart disease.

Additionally, HDL helps to keep the arteries flexible; flexible arteries can prevent high blood pressure. The alcohol contained in red wine helps to increase HDL as does its resveratrol and other polyphenols; some medical experts consider red wine’s polyphenols to be almost as beneficial as aspirin. Red wine can increase HDL cholesterol by as much as 20 percent when it is consumed in moderation.

Research on Resveratrol

This compound comes from the skins of the grapes used to make wine. The reason red wine has more of it compared to white wine is that red wines are fermented with their skins for a longer period. While much of the research on resveratrol has been done on mice rather than on people, there is some evidence that it may help to protect from both obesity and diabetes. Obesity and diabetes greatly increase an individual’s risk of heart disease.

Other research shows that resveratrol may have benefits when it comes to reducing inflammation and blood clotting which are both risk factors in heart disease.

Still, the jury is out on whether the non-alcohol components of red wine improve cardiovascular health, or whether it’s the alcohol in the wine itself that does the trick.

Recommended Quantity of Red Wine

For women, five ounces of red wine daily should be enough to provide benefits; for men, the ideal amount is 10 ounces. Research has shown that individuals who drink red wine in those quantities can see a greater reduction in cholesterol when compared to those who abstain from alcohol entirely.

It should be noted that while this type of moderate consumption can have health benefits, excessive alcohol consumption does not; binge drinking has actually been shown to raise the risk of heart problems.

Red wine can help to lower cholesterol, but it is most effective when used in conjunction with other steps. It should be noted that researchers do not presently recommend that non-drinkers start drinking; more research is needed on the dangers versus the benefits.

In addition to drinking red wine, it is a good idea for individuals to lower their consumption of saturated and trans fats while increasing their consumption of foods with omega 3 fatty acids. Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise each day is also important.