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Fish with Wine: The Perfect Pairing for Heart Health?

Scientific review finds wine optimizes digestion of omega-3 fatty acids

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: December 3, 2010

Finding the perfect wine to match with fish may be challenging, but a team of French scientists has found that the pairing is worth the effort. A comprehensive review of recent research on wine and fish shows that the drink helps break down omega-3 fatty acids abundant in many types of seafood. This helps keep heart tissue stronger and healthier.

The study, published recently in the journal Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, found that hearts of those who regularly consume wine and omega-3 fatty acids have 20 percent more heart tissue, indicating a cardiovascular system that regenerates with regularity. The human heart contracts an average of 100,000 times every 24 hours. So its ability to rebuild is key to maintaining that constant rhythm.

The study authors work at two medical universities in France and are led by Joel de Leiris of the Heart and Nutrition research group at Joseph Fourier University. De Leiris previously worked with French cardiovascular researcher Dr. Michel de Lorgeril of Grenoble University on a 2008 study that found a beneficial cardiovascular link between wine and fish consumption. In that study, the team found that moderate consumers of alcohol had higher levels of omega-3 in their bodies compared to nondrinkers, despite consuming similar amounts of seafood.

The new study digs deeper. By analyzing data from 84 independent studies, de Leiris' team found lower rates of heart disease among those who ate fish and drank wine regularly. "Interactions between wine consumption and the metabolism of [omega-3] polyunsaturated fatty acids might substantially contribute to the cardioprotective effect of regular and moderate wine drinking," the text read. The optimal amount of wine, they report, is around two to four glasses per day paired with fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly cold water fish with oily, fatty flesh, such as anchovies, herring and mackerel. They add that the choice of wine should not greatly impact the heart benefits, but that beer and spirits drinkers are unlikely to see similar benefits.

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