The virtues of French red wine
Red wine, enjoyed in moderation, is good for the heart and blood vessels – but not for everyone. Experiments have shown that French wines prevent hardening of the arteries much better than their German counterparts, researchers from Mainz report.
The vascular protective effect of a good drop has long been known under the term "French paradox": This describes the apparently paradoxical phenomenon that, despite a high-fat diet, the inhabitants of the Mediterranean regions suffer less from coronary heart disease than Central and Northern Europeans or Americans. Moderate consumption of wine is considered to be the cause.
Ulrich Förstermann from the University of Mainz has now examined the heart-protecting mechanism of red wine in detail. According to this, various plant substances such as flavonoids, polyphenols or phytoalexins play an important role by helping the endothelium of the blood vessels to release more nitrogen monoxide (NO). NO is considered to be one of the most important messengers of the endothelial cells and has a vasodilating effect by reducing the state of tension in the vascular muscle cells. It also prevents blood platelets from clumping together and inflammatory cells from migrating into the vessel wall. Red wine now contains these substances and thus promotes the release of NO.
Only a small effect was shown for German wines
(Ulrich Förstermann) In the experiment, however, cell cultures reacted very differently to wines of different provenance. "In some cases, French red wines were able to quadruple the release of NO," emphasizes Förstermann. "On the German wines examined, there was only a slight effect, and none at all on pure alcohol." Incidentally, the researchers were not able to observe any differences in the effect between French wines that matured in barrique barrels or in conventional steel tanks.
The vessel-protecting effect should also apply to wines other than French wines. "Any wine that is high in flavonoids and other heart-he althy ingredients could lead to similar test results," says the pharmacologist. "This applies to Californian, Italian and South African varieties, among others."
The phytoalexin resveratrol, which is mainly found in the skin and seeds of grapes and less in the pulp, turned out to be one of the most important plant substances. That is why the consumption of grape juice and white wine does not have the same heart and vascular protective effects as moderate consumption of red wine.