Has Atrial Fibrillation Met Its Match in Wine?
Atrial fibrillation, the most common abnormal heart rhythm condition in the world, may have met its match in a component found in wine. Scientists have created new drugs for this heart condition based on resveratrol, a potent antioxidant present in red grapes, red wine, and some berries.
What do you know about atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is characterized by an irregular heartbeat often accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, heart palpitations, irregular pulse, confusion, and weakness. Individuals with atrial fibrillation are at increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Problems with the electrical activity of the heart causes atrial fibrillation. A long list of factors can trigger those electrical issues, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, inflammation of the heart muscle (myocarditis), rheumatic heart disease, congenital heart disease, endocarditis, heart valve disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hyperthyroidism, use of certain medications (e.g., amphetamines, decongestants, cocaine), excessive use of caffeine or nicotine, heavy alcohol use, pneumonia, and Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.
The list of available medications to treat atrial fibrillation, however, is not as long, and includes anticoagulants (e.g., warfarin, dabigatran), antiarrhythmics, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers. In addition, these medications are typically associated with potential serious side effects.
Could resveratrol help?
An international team of researchers, led by Peter Light of the University of Alberta, Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry, found that new drugs based on resveratrol regulated the electrical activity of the heart and reduced the time of abnormal heart rhythm events in the laboratory. Their discovery is important for several reasons.
One, the drugs based on resveratrol are capable of focusing on various activities in the cells, while currently available medications are able to target just one or two sites. Two, because resveratrol is a natural substance, the researchers are hopeful individuals will be better able to tolerate drugs made from it and thus have fewer or no side effects.
Light noted that “We are at the next stage of developing a new oral medication for atrial fibrillation that patients could take on a daily basis to prevent this condition from occurring.” However, it will take several years before drugs based on resveratrol are available on the market.
Previous research has shown resveratrol to be helpful in managing high blood pressure and that it could help build brain resistance to stroke. Researchers also have uncovered evidence that resveratrol:
- May help type 2 diabetes
- Has a role in breast cancer
- May help prevent blindness
- Improves inflammatory bowel disease symptoms
Resveratrol is a natural substance that appears to have great potential in human health. Could drugs based on resveratrol soon help manage atrial fibrillation?
Pollack RM, Crandall JP. Resveratrol: therapeutic potential for improving cardiometabolic health. American Journal of Hypertension 2013 Sep 11. Epub ahead of print
University of Alberta