Wine Surprise: Heart-protective effect is independent of antioxidants

10:05am, January 29, 2004

If red wine protects against heart disease, it's probably not because of the antioxidants that the drink contains, two new studies in mice suggest.

Many scientists presume that oxidation of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol—bad cholesterol—is a major cause of atherosclerosis, the fatty plaques that can accumulate inside the arteries around the heart.

Therefore, an often-proposed explanation of red wine's protective effects has been its abundant supply of the antioxidants called polyphenols. However, two studies in the January American Journal of Clinical Nutrition report no sign of reduced oxidation within the arteries of heart-disease-prone mice given alcoholfree red wine. Nevertheless, the mice drinking that wine had fewer fatty plaques in their arteries than animals drinking plain water did.

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