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Rev Esp Cardiol. 1998 Jun;51(6):435-49.

[Wine and heart].

[Article in Spanish]

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  • 1Servicio de Cardiología, Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid.


Many epidemiological studies have shown that moderate alcohol intake, from 10 to 30 g of ethanol a day, decreases cardiovascular mortality from atherosclerotic ischaemic heart disease and ischaemic stroke as compared to non-drinkers. This beneficial effect outweighs the risks of alcohol consumption in subgroups of people with a higher risk of atherosclerosis: the elderly, people with coronary risk factors and patients with previous coronary events. It has not been demonstrated that alcohol intake, even in moderate amounts, is beneficial for the general population, in particular, men under the age of 40 and women under 50, because it raises mortality due to other causes, especially injury, cirrhosis of the liver and some types of cancer, thereby outweighing the benefits for coronary artery disease. Thus, alcohol consumption should not be recommended as a prophylaxis for the general population. Guidelines on alcohol drinking habits--whether to continue, to start, to modify or to stop--must be given on an individual basis, taking into account the relative risks and benefits for each patient. The benefits of moderate alcohol consumption on the cardiovascular system seem to be exerted fundamentally through its effects on plasma lipoproteins, principally by raising high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and to a lesser degree, by decreasing low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It appears to exert additional beneficial effects on the heart by decreasing platelet aggregability and by bringing about changes in the clotting-fibrinolysis system. Although there has been some debate about the relative superiority of different types of alcoholic beverages (wine, beer or hard liquor), and to a greater extent, about different types of wine, there is no current evidence of any kind of beneficial effect from other components of the beverage besides ethanol. Thus, it does not seem appropriate to recommend any particular type of alcoholic drink, except for sociocultural reasons. The added benefits from some components of different types of wine with a high antioxidant activity on plasma lipoproteins remain only an interesting hypothesis. Meanwhile, encouraging a healthy diet, flavonoid rich and with a predominance of natural ingredients (fruit, legumes, cereals and seeds), in the general population should stop the current tendency of Southern European countries from abandoning the Mediterranean diet. Because of the multifactorial nature of coronary heart disease, it is necessary to remember that atherosclerotic risk reduction is achieved by behavior modification of multiple risk factors present in individual patients and in the general population. Therefore, guidelines regarding alcohol intake should always be linked to pertinent recommendations about other atherosclerotic risk factors.

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