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Med Sci Monit 2001; 7(4): RA842-847
Beneficial effects of wine consumption on health have been suspected sincethe antiquity. Recent epidemiological studies show that coronary heart disease mortality markedly decreasesfrom northern to southern Europe and is lower in Mediterranean than in other developed countries. Becausewine is a component of the Mediterranean diet, it has been suggested that moderate wine especially redwine consumption may produce additional beneficial effects on cardiovascular morbidity and mortalitycompared to consuming the same quantity of alcohol in other beverages. Polyphenols are good candidatesto explain the putative cardiovascular protective effect of wine, because they are abundant in wine especiallyred wine, and possess antioxidant and superoxide ion scavenging properties. Because it is readily accessiblefrom blood and produces cardioprotective agents like nitric oxide (NO) the endothelial cell may be aprivileged target for wine polyphenols. Polyphenols from red wine can prevent oxidation of low densitylipoproteins (LDL). As oxidized LDL inhibit agonist-activated NO release from endothelial cells and subsequentendothelium-dependent relaxation of arteries, wine polyphenols might prevent LDL-induced alterationsof endothelial function. Furthermore some wine polyphenols contained in oligomeric condensed tannins-and anthocyaninsD enriched fractions can act directly on endothelial cells to cause calcium-dependentrelease of NO. The latter effect is independent from superoxide scavenging and antioxidant propertiesof the polyphenols, and it is produced by compounds with specific structures only. Thus, decreased oxidationof LDL and enhanced release of NO from endothelium caused by polyphenols from red wine may result incardiovascular protection. However further studies are required to demonstrate whether or not these effectsare involved in the putative protective effect of wine on cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.