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Pop the Champagne for Heart Health

Study finds link between sparkling wine and improved circulation

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: December 9, 2009

Champagne producers have always touted that it's a wine worthy of daily consumption, not just for celebrations. And a study published in the Nov. 30 issue of the British Journal of Nutrition backs that up. The study, conducted by researchers at the school of chemistry, food and pharmacy at the University of Reading, with assistance from two biochemical and molecular biology centers in Reims, France, found that subjects who drank moderate amounts of Champagne daily appeared to show improved arterial function.

"This study into the effects of Champagne on the health of the circulatory system and the heart suggests that Champagne acts in a way more akin to red wine than to white wine and that these effects are due to polyphenols derived from both the red and white grape used in its production," said Jeremy P.E. Spencer, a researcher at the University who also coauthored earlier research that found Champagne protects brain cells from injury.

In the text, the authors point out that past studies have suggested a correlation between red wine consumption and lower incidence of cardiovascular disease but that Champagne has not been fully investigated for cardio-protective potential. To do just that, the researchers set up a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover intervention trial, where subjects would drink moderate amounts of Champagne daily. They theorize that because Champagne is made from both white and red grapes, it may offer red wine’s cardiovascular benefits.

The volunteers, ages 20 to 65, were recruited from around Reading and cleared vigorous medical tests to ensure they were free of any chronic illnesses. Leading up to the study, the scientists suspected that certain plant-based chemicals in the subjects' diets may impact the results and asked participants to forgo polyphenol-rich products such as cocoa, coffee, tea and wine for two days prior to the experiment.

On the first day of the research, subjects drank 375 milliliters of Champagne. In the control group, the subjects drank a carbonated fruit-based beverage mixed in the lab with a similar 12 percent alcohol and an equivalent amount of ethanol, sugars, vitamins, minerals and acids. The only major difference in composition, Spencer explained, is that the control beverage did not contain polyphenols.

Regardless of what they were drinking, the volunteers were given 10 minutes to get it all down. Blood samples were then collected at regular intervals for eight hours, and urine was taken every eight hours for the following day.

In the blood samples, the researchers noted that levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that controls blood pressure, were elevated in the Champagne drinkers. Optimal nitric oxide levels should decrease the risk of blood clots forming and, therefore, the study concludes, this should equally decrease the likelihood of heart disease and strokes. Furthermore, metabolites of Champagne polyphenols were detected in the urine samples, indicating a decent rate of absorption into the blood.

The levels of nitric oxide in the blood and polyphenol metabolites in the urine were higher in the Champagne group when compared to the control groups. "Our research has shown that drinking around two glasses of Champagne can have beneficial effects on the way blood vessels function, in a similar way to that observed with red wine," said Spencer, in a statement. He stressed, however, that, "We always encourage a responsible approach to alcohol consumption."

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