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Cheers! Champagne is “good for the heart”

Researchers say our blood vessels benefit from two glasses of bubbly a day, but heart campaigners warn of dangers to other parts of the body from drinking more alcohol
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
champagne toast

15th December 2009 -- University of Reading researchers say two glasses of champagne a day may be good for your heart and circulation. They’ve found that drinking it daily in moderate amounts improves the way blood vessels function.

Champagne does this by increasing the availability of nitric oxide, which controls blood pressure. Champagne contains polyphenols, plant chemicals from the red and white grapes used in to make it.

A toast to polyphenols

The polyphenols are absorbed into the circulation where they start working on the vascular system. They seem to slow down the natural removal of nitric oxide from blood, which means it has longer to act on blood vessels and improve the flow of blood around the body.

The higher nitric oxide levels in the blood may also help to decrease blood pressure and the chances of blood clots forming. In theory this could reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke, but the researchers say more work needs to be done on the long term effects of a daily dose of champagne.

In a news release, Dr Jeremy Spencer, from the University of Reading’s Department of Food and Nutritional Sciences, says “Our research has shown that drinking around two glasses of champagne can have beneficial effects on the way blood vessels function, in a similar way to that observed with red wine.”

He goes on to say “We always encourage a responsible approach to alcohol consumption, but the fact that drinking champagne has the potential to reduce the risks of suffering from cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease and stroke, is very exciting news.”

Concern at promoting more alcohol consumption

Ellen Mason, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation, told us by e-mail: “There may be benefits of small amounts of alcohol for the heart and circulation. But whilst moderate alcohol intake might lower the risk of having a heart attack, coronary heart disease is just one type of heart disease. Cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart muscle, is associated with high alcohol intake and can lead to a poor quality of life and premature death. Binging on alcohol can increase blood pressure, and high blood pressure is a leading cause of stroke.”

She goes on to say: “The heart is just one of many organs in the body. While alcohol could offer limited protection to one organ, abuse of it can damage the heart and other organs such as the liver, pancreas and brain.

“The message is that drinking moderately may be beneficial to some people’s hearts, but needs to be coupled with a healthy lifestyle such as not smoking, keeping to a healthy weight and being physically active. But there is not sufficient evidence to start drinking if you don’t already. Excessive drinking can be harmful and a danger to your health generally,” she says.

As well as the health concerns, champagne is also an expensive way to heart health, so the good news is polyphenols can also be found in a nice cup of tea.

Reviewed on December 15, 2009

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