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Braz J Med Biol Res. 2004 Sep;37(9):1275-95. Epub 2004 Aug 24.

Wine, alcohol and atherosclerosis: clinical evidences and mechanisms.

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Unidade de Aterosclerose, Instituto do Coração, Hospital das Clínicas, Universidade de São Paulo, São Paulo, SP, Brasil.


Atherosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory disease which may cause obstructions of the coronary, cerebral and peripheral arteries. It is typically multifactorial, most often dependent on risk factors such as hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, smoking, hypertension, sedentarism, and obesity. It is the single main cause of death in most developed countries due to myocardial infarction, angina, sudden death, and heart failure. Several epidemiological studies suggest that moderate alcohol intake, especially red wine, decrease cardiac mortality due to atherosclerosis. The alcohol effect is described by a J curve, suggesting that moderate drinkers may benefit while abstainers and heavy drinkers are at higher risk. Experimental studies indicate that most beneficial effects of drinking are attributable to flavonoids that are present in red wine, purple grape juice and several fruits and vegetables. The mechanisms include antiplatelet actions, increases in high-density lipoprotein, antioxidation, reduced endothelin-1 production, and increased endothelial nitric oxide synthase expression which causes augmented nitric oxide production by endothelial cells. These findings lead to the concept that moderate red wine drinking, in the absence of contraindications, may be beneficial to patients who are at risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular events. Moreover, a diet based on fruits and vegetables containing flavonoids may be even more beneficial.

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