It's one of the few tenets the scientific community almost universally agrees on: Cigarettes are bad for you. But a new study from Germany has found that drinking a glass of wine, specifically red wine, may counteract the short-term negative effects of smoking. While the researchers are not suggesting anyone light up, their findings offer more evidence of wine's health benefits.
The scientists, whose work was published online in the American Journal of Medicine, noted that smoking's short-term effects on cardiovascular health are almost the opposite of red wine's effects. When you light up, the smoke inflames blood vessels and damages cells. Research has shown that red wine decreases blood vessel inflammation.
"Sparse data exist on the short-term potential vasoprotective effects of red wine in smoking healthy individuals," said lead researcher Viktoria Schwarz of the University of Saarland, in a statement. "We found evidence that pre-consumption of red wine prevented most of the vascular injury caused by smoking."
Schwarz and her team gathered 20 healthy nonsmokers and asked each one to smoke three cigarettes. Half of the subjects drank red wine—enough to raise their blood alcohol levels to 0.075 percent—one hour before they smoked. The researchers collected blood and alcohol samples both before the experiment and then regularly until 18 hours after the subjects had smoked.
Subjects who smoked but didn't drink had microparticles in their blood, evidence that the smoke had damaged the lining of their blood vessels, as well as platelets and white blood cells. The subjects who drank red wine first did not show the same damage. Cigarette smoke also damages telomers, protective caps on our chromosomes. The researchers found that the subjects who drank red wine showed less evidence of telomer damage.
Schwarz and her team are quick to say that they're not encouraging anyone to start smoking. The test subjects were all nonsmokers, so it's unclear how red wine would affect longtime smokers. It's also not clear if wine would have any impact on smoking's long-term negative health effects. But Schwarz believes it should lead to further study on how wine protects our cardiovascular health.