Researchers from INSERM in France have found differences in red wine drinkers "good cholesterol," which could account for the drinks beneficial effects against cardiovascular disease.The study appears in the August 2002 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. Researchers analyzed the high-density lipoprotein composition of teetotalers, regular drinkers and heavy drinkers (most of whom generally drank red wine). They found that HDL cholesterol increased as alcohol consumption increased, and that HDL particles from wine consumers were richer in certain components that can play a protective role in cardiovascular disease.
The well-documented relationship between moderate consumption of alcohol-particularly red wine-and reduced risk for heart attack may be partly explained by alcohols relationship to increased levels of HDL. The new research provides an in-depth look at that connection.The study provides a detailed characterization of HDL composition in regular drinkers for the first time according to Bertrand Perret of the French medical research institute Inserm.
Forty-six men between ages 35 and 65 participated in the study. Their dietary patterns, including alcohol intake, were examined with a dietitian over three days. They were categorized into three groups: teetotalers, regular drinkers (who drank less than 35 grams of alcohol each day), and heavy drinkers (who drank 35 to 60 grams of alcohol each day).
After participants fasted overnight, their blood samples were analyzed for HDL and other components related to cardiovascular disease. Researchers analyzed the nutrition data and collected information on smoking and medical history, including current blood pressure and physical activity, to mitigate the possibility that other factors caused the HDL differences in the three groups.
The study shows that the increase in HDL levels observed in regular drinkers is associated with an enrichment of HDL particles in polyunsaturated phospholipids, and particularly in those containing omega-3 fatty acids, an effect that might be, in itself, beneficial against cardiovascular diseases. INSERM calls for further research to test the possible mechanisms underlying the differences in HDL fatty acid composition observed in this study.