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Lower your blood pressure with nonalcoholic red wine

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
blood pressure, hypertension, red wine, polyphenols, nitrous oxide

Spain is a wine-growing and wine-loving nation and the beverage naturally has an alcohol content. The vast majority of Spaniards would gasp in horror if they were offered a glass of alcohol-free wine. However, they might consider the unleaded product if they were made aware of its cardiovascular benefits. Researchers in Barcelona conducted a study evaluating the blood pressure-lowering properties of regular red wine and nonalcoholic red wine. They published their findings online in the journal Circulation Research.

The authors noted that studies have reported a potential blood pressure-lowering effect of red wine polyphenols; however, to date, the effects of ethanol and polyphenols on BP in humans are not yet clear. Therefore, they designed a study to evaluate the effects of red wine fractions (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) on blood pressure and plasma nitric oxide in subjects at high cardiovascular risk.

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The study group was comprised of 67 men at high cardiovascular risk. Following a two-week run-in period, the men were randomized into three treatment periods in a cross-over clinical trial. A cross-over clinical trial is one in which the subjects are exposed to all treatment arms. The subjects consumed a common background diet plus red wine (30 grams (1 ounce) alcohol/day), the equivalent amount of dealcoholized red wine, or gin (30 grams alcohol/day) for four weeks at each intervention. At baseline and after each intervention, anthropometrical parameters, blood pressure and plasma nitrous oxide were measured. The researchers found that systolic and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly after the dealcoholized red wine intervention and these changes correlated with increases in plasma nitrous oxide. Systolic blood pressure dropped 2.3 ml Hg with red wine, 5.8 mm HG with nonalcoholic red wine, and 0.8 mm Hg with gin. Diastolic blood pressure dropped 1.0 mm Hg with red wine, 2.3 mm Hg with nonalcoholic red wine, and 0.1 mm Hg with gin. Nitric oxide levels in ┬Ámol/L increased 0.6 with red wine and 4.1 with nonalcoholic red wine. It dropped 1.4 with gin.

The authors concluded that the polyphenols found in red wine are the likely mediators of the blood-pressure reduction and that alcohol appears to weaken their antihypertensive effect. They added that serum nitric oxide level was the likely mediator of the process. They noted that although the blood-pressure reduction associated with nonalcoholic red wine was modest; however, reductions of this magnitude have been associated with a 14% decrease in coronary heart disease and 20% reduction in stroke risk.

Take home message:
This study notes that nonalcoholic wine may have greater benefits for cardiovascular health than the regular product. However, any wine connoisseur would point out a decidedly poorer taste experience. Citizens of neighboring France are also well-known for their love of fermented grape products. The French paradox is the observation that French people suffer a relatively low incidence of coronary heart disease, despite having a diet relatively rich in saturated fats. This is attributed to the consumption of red wine. As in most things in life, moderation is the key. Heavy drinking would result in far more negative health consequences than positive ones.

Reference: Stroke Research