Almost a year has passed since researchers elevated alcohol to an indulgence that is actually good for your heart.
Now a new study provides some insight into whether—for red wine, at least—the benefits stem from the grapes or the alcohol.
Researchers at the University of Barcelona in Spain conducted a study on 67 men with a high risk of heart disease—as indicated by a higher body mass index (BMI), smoking, diabetes or high blood pressure.
After two weeks of abstaining from alcohol, the men went through three four-week stages: drinking two glasses of red wine a day; drinking two glasses of red wine (with the alcohol removed) a day; and drinking the same amount of gin (by alcohol content) a day. The study found that drinking alcohol—in either red wine or gin—increased the level of a compound in the blood that controls inflammation. Drinking red wine—with or without alcohol—decreased the level of compounds related to the formation of plaques in the arteries.
Both inflammation and plaque formation are related to heart disease. “Thus, both grapes and [alcohol] are good for the heart,” one of the researchers, Ramon Estruch, MD, PhD, told WebMD.
The key, though, is drinking in moderation—up to two drinks a day for men, and one for women. Also, men with conditions aggravated by alcohol should not start drinking.
This includes liver disease, pancreatitis and heart failure. As for non-drinkers, grape juice made with red Concord grapes may offer some of the benefits of red wine.