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Sherry May Be Good for Heart Health Too, Study Finds

Rats that drank Sherry daily tended to have lower levels of bad cholesterol, according to research from Spain.

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: March 29, 2004

Be it fino, manzanilla, amontillado or oloroso, Sherry consumed in moderate amounts may help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood, according to research published in the March issue of the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.

In the medical community, red wine has earned a reputation as a beneficial tipple, in terms of heart health, as long as it is consumed in moderate amounts. But fortified wines, such as Sherry and Port, are typically overlooked in medical research, according to the study authors.

The new study shows that the beneficial effects of red wine extend to Sherry wines, said lead researcher Juan Guerrero, from the University of Seville. He noted that Sherry is very popular in Spain, its country of origin, as well as in the United Kingdom.

Red wine contains polyphenols, and these chemical compounds are believed to break down LDL cholesterol, the "bad" kind, before it can build up on blood vessel walls. Polyphenols may also aid in the production of HDL cholesterol, the "good" kind. Guerrero and his team wanted to see if Sherry contained enough polyphenols to exert a similar effect.

The scientists separated lab rats into three groups. Over two months, one group was given just water to drink, another received water mixed with ethanol, and a third group drank Sherry, as well as water.

According to the scientists, the amount of Sherry the rats quaffed is the equivalent of 150ml per day for a 154-pound human. The Sherry-drinking rats were divided into four groups. Each group received a different type of Sherry -- amontillado, fino, manzanilla or oloroso -- so the scientists could record the effects of the different types separately.

After two months, the scientists observed that the Sherry-drinking rats had not lost any weight, nor experienced any other physical changes that could be related to declining health.

Blood samples showed that the Sherry-drinking rats had lower levels of bad cholesterol and higher levels of good cholesterol than either the rats that drank water or the rats that drank water and ethanol. The results were similar regardless of which form of Sherry the rats consumed.

"These effects were apparently not related to the ethanol content," wrote the researchers. They concluded that the polyphenols in Sherry may be responsible for the healthier cholesterol levels.

While the study was conducted on only rats, the scientists believe the results point to possible benefits for humans. "Drinking Sherry can also increase the body's production of HDL cholesterol," they wrote, "which is associated with longevity and a decreased incidence of coronary artery disease."

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For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind A Healthy Life With Wine

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