French, Italian wines better for heart: study

Red wines from certain countries and regions are better for your health, according to a new study.

German researchers from Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz say red wines from France, Italy, California and South Africa could be beneficial to the heart.

Their report is in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Researchers compared red wines from Germany with ones from France. They examined whether the wines would increase the amount of a certain enzyme in the body. The eNOS (endothelial nitric oxide synthase) enzyme protects blood vessels from clotting and from plaque buildup.

Those who have diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure tend to suffer a dysfunction in their eNOS enzymes.

Researchers exposed cultured human cells to six French reds, three German reds and pure alcohol.

They discovered some of the French wines caused eNOS numbers to quadruple while German wines and the pure alcohol showed no effect.

"French wines are richer in flavonoids, polyphenols and phytoalexins," says lead author Ulrich Forstermann.

Forstermann says he believes those compounds help stimulate eNOS. The same compounds are also prevalent in red wines from Italy, South Africa and California.

"They have the potential to protect against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)," says Forstermann.

Some wines are rich in those compounds because of the soil they are grown in. It doesn't matter if they mature in an oak barrel or steel tank.

Dr. Robert Vogel, an American heart specialist, cautions people not to take the study too seriously. Vogel calls the study "interesting but not clinically relevant."

He says one or two drinks a day for people over 40 will probably help prevent heart disease. He says the study doesn't give permission for people to overdo it.

"Too many people drink a lot and the ravages of alcohol are devastating."