Got High Cholesterol? Wine May Help

September 2, 2013

Healthy Life

Wine May HelpBy now you’ve probably heard the news that wine — when consumed in moderation — is good for you. “A glass of wine a day keeps the doctor away!” the headlines read. “Drink Up!” they say, “Your heart will thank you!”

It’s true. In a time when it seems like every day there’s yet another study or report linking one of our favorite foods to a chronic disease or condition, wine is one of the few indulgences that almost everyone can agree is good for you.

While it’s been attributed to lower risk for cancer, diabetes and other conditions, for those battling with high cholesterol, drinking wine can make a significant difference.

The Wine-Heart Health Connection

When you hear the term cholesterol, doctors are referring to the lipid proteins found in the blood. However, simply saying “cholesterol” is misleading, as there are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or “bad” cholesterol, and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. Your overall cholesterol levels also contain triglycerides, a type of fat.

When your LDL cholesterol levels are too high, the proteins circulate in your blood and combine with other substances to build up as plaque on artery walls, causing a hardening and narrowing of the arteries known as atherosclerosis. If a blood clot forms and cannot get through the narrowed artery, it can cause a heart attack or stroke.

HDL cholesterol, on the other hand, does not build up and harden the arteries. This cholesterol is believed to help take LDL cholesterol away from the arteries and into the liver, where it’s then flushed from the body. The more HDL cholesterol you have, the lower your risk of heart disease.

So where does wine come in? Studies show that drinking wine can actually increase the amount of HDL good cholesterol in the blood. Ethanol, the alcohol in wine as well as beer and hard liquor, has been proven to increase HDL levels.

In addition, wine contains the powerful phytochemical resveratrol, an antioxidant that helps prevent damage from free radicals while thinning the blood to prevent clots, reducing arterial plaque and changing the lipid profile of the blood — in other words, increasing good cholesterol.

Now for the Bad News

While drinking wine can have a measurable, positive effect on your cholesterol levels, it can raise your triglyceride levels as well, which might create health issues. When you’re overweight, sedentary, a smoker or you drink too much, your triglyceride levels can skyrocket, increasing your risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. However, you can keep your triglycerides at a healthy level and avoid those risks by practicing moderation.

It’s All About Moderation

While the news that wine is good for your health is welcome to oenophiles, it’s not a license to throw back a bottle or two every evening. In fact, overindulging in vino can actually increase your risk of heart disease and other problems; the American Heart Association notes that excessive alcohol consumption can contribute to obesity, high blood pressure and an increased risk of stroke.

Its all about moderationFor that reason, experts recommend consuming wine in moderation, meaning no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. A drink, in these terms, is a five-ounce glass of wine, or a little more than half of a standard wine glass. Keeping your consumption to moderate levels also keeps your calorie intake down; a standard glass of red wine contains about 120 calories, so consuming more will lead to excess calorie consumption and weight gain, again negating some of the health benefits of wine.

In addition, red wine tends to have greater health benefits than white varieties. That’s because the process of making red wine requires leaving the skins on the grapes, and the skin contains high levels of resveratrol. Wines from cooler climates also tend to have higher levels of resveratrol than those from other regions; France’s Burgundy region, for example, produces wines with some of the highest antioxidant levels in the world.

Having a glass of wine each day has many proven health benefits — and reducing your cholesterol is but one of them. If you’re concerned about your heart health and want to reduce your risk of serious disease, consider making a daily dose of healthy red wine a part of your routine.

Wine image from Flickr’s Creative Commons by geishaboy500

Long-term effects of alcohol image by Mikael H?ggstr?m (all used images are in public domain.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

About the Author: Penny Singer is a health writer who contributes to a number of popular sites, turning complex medical news into actionable tips for readers. She enjoys a glass of red wine each evening (she stocks up at citywinecellar.com) and has very healthy cholesterol levels.

Got High Cholesterol? Wine May Help


This site is for information and support only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment!
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