‘A glass of Chilean Cabernet a day keeps the doctor away,’ may well become the new children’s rhyme of the future. We all knew that a glass of wine can help you relax, but did you know it can be good for your heart? One doctor has been researching the good effects of red wine on the heart, and has been prescribing two small glasses of red wine a day to patients in his cardiology ward in Great Western Hospital in Swindon, England.
Dr William McCrea began looking into the positive effects of red wine after noticing how the French have half as many heart attacks as the British, despite eating fattier foods, smoking more and not exercising any more. The answer he believes is in the antioxidant properties of red wine, which they drink on a regular basis (without drinking to excess). He has found through his 10,000 patients that two small glasses a day can reduce the risk of a stroke by 20%, and reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by up to 50%. The health benefits of red wine are particularly found in Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, which one of the most antioxidant rich wines in the world.
Dr McCrea is such an advocate of the benefits of red wine that he wheels bottles of wine with 125ml glasses around the ward on his duties in hospital in Swindon and has been prescribing red wine to patients for over 10 years. “I’ve given it to 10,000 patients and the chances of a second heart attack have been reduced by around 50%,” Dr McCrea told a press conference in the UK. “Also the wine cheers patients up and focuses them on their recovery by relaxing them during a very tense period. Hardly any of my patients who have a heart attack who go on to have red wine ever come back into the hospital again, which is unusual.”
The science behind the pleasure of ‘a glass of red a day’ is that the antioxidants, in particular resveratrol, are good at combating the chemicals that cause blood clots. Blood clots are the principal cause for heart disease. The alcohol and antioxidants also help by increasing levels of ‘the good cholesterol’ (high-density lipoprotein cholesterol) that protects against artery damage. That is good news for red wine drinkers, although white wine drinkers won’t experience the same benefits sadly as the resveratrol comes from the longer contact red wine has with the red grape skins. Eating red grapes or drinking red grape fruit juice is another way to increase your resveratrol intake, although it doesn’t have the same calming effect of wine, which helps lower blood pressure (when consumed in moderation). Dr McCrea estimates you would have to drink 5 litres of fruit juice to get the same effect as 2 small glasses of red wine.
The other good news is that you don’t need to splash out on the most expensive wines for your daily dosage. Screw top, young wines are perfectly good, in fact, they are better. The younger the wine, the richer in antioxidants it is, and the screw top preserves antioxidants whereas cork absorbs them.
Dr McCrea’s treatment is so popular that Swindon has sold out of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon many times. Why Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon? Well, apart from it being Dr McCrea’s favourite, the higher UV radiation found in Chile results in a greater concentration of polyphenols in the grape skins, which are what give the beneficial antioxidant effect. Some other New World countries including Argentina and South Africa also have higher levels of polyphenols than Old World counterparts.
Let’s all raise a glass of Chilean Cab to the doctor’s orders. Salud!
NB: Wines of Chile is part of the Drink in Moderation campaign, and only recommends drinking wine in moderation and never to excess. A small amount of red wine may have health benefits, however drinking too much wine or alcohol outweighs the benefits. Excessive alcohol consumption can be fatal.