September 11, 2012

Pigs Find Heart-Healthy Benefit To Drinking Wine Over Vodka

John Neumann for — Your Universe Online

A study published in the September issue of the journal Circulation finds that pigs that drank red wine had lower cholesterol than their vodka-swilling buddies. Researcher Frank Sellke, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Rhode Island Hospital and The Miriam hospital, and his colleagues, studied the effects of red wine and vodka on pigs with high cholesterol.

“There has been previous research touting the benefits of moderate consumption of wine, but we wanted to test the effects of both wine and vodka in conjunction with high cholesterol as those who would be in this at-risk patient population typically have other medical issues, such as high cholesterol,” said Sellke, the study´s principal investigator.

“What we found is that moderate consumption of both alcohols may reduce cardiovascular risk, but that red wine may offer increased protection due to its antioxidant properties.”

Three groups of swine that had been fed a high-fat diet were studied. The first group continued on the diet alone, the second was supplemented daily with red wine and the third was supplemented daily with vodka.

The wine and vodka were mixed with the pigs´ food with dosages selected to provide equal amounts of alcohol to both treated groups.

It was determined, after seven weeks, that the subjects that had been given wine or vodka had significantly increased blood flow to the heart, with the red wine having the larger cardiovascular benefit. It was further determined that HDL, or good cholesterol, was significantly increased in the two alcohol-treated groups while total cholesterol levels were unaffected.

HDL (good) cholesterol transports LDL (bad) to the liver where it is metabolized. This may assist in preventing hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, and other cardiac issues.

While both red wine and vodka can benefit the heart, they do so differently. Red wine dilates blood vessels, while vodka causes more collateral vessels to develop. This sheds new light on the processes by which moderate alcohol intake might reduce cardiovascular risk.

Whether these beneficial effects are also seen in humans remains to be seen.

Beer, wine and spirits have been associated, from previous studies, with reduced cardiovascular risk, particularly several substances unique to red wine have been investigated for their antioxidant, pro-angiogenic and anti-inflammatory properties. The most well-known is resveratrol.

However, it´s important to note that even among red wines, there is a large variation in actual resveratrol content. Though Californian pinot noir is reported to have one of the highest resveratrol contents, the amount of resveratrol in the wine chosen for this study was lower than that reported for other red wines.