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Last Updated: Monday, 1 September, 2003, 10:53 GMT 11:53 UK
Red wine may protect smokers
Glass of red wine
A glass or two of red wine may keep the doctor away
Drinking red wine may help to protect against the harmful effects of smoking, a study suggests.

Researchers have found that two glasses of red wine counteract the damage to the arteries caused by one cigarette.

However, smokers have been warned against drinking gallons of red wine in an effort to protect themselves.

Speaking at a major European conference, the researchers, said there was no evidence to suggest it protects beyond a single cigarette.

Dr John Lekakis and colleagues at Alexandra University Hospital in Athens, in Greece based their findings on a study of 16 healthy adults.

Medical test

Each volunteer smoked one cigarette before having a simple test to measure the performance of their arteries.

They were tested again after drinking two glasses of red wine and smoking one cigarette, and again after drinking two glasses of non-alcoholic red wine and smoking a cigarette.

This doesn't prove that regular consumption of red wine could possibly attenuate the harmful effect of chronic smoking
Greek researchers
The first test backed up previous studies, which have shown that smoking a cigarette reduces the ability of the arteries to pump blood around the body for one hour.

However, there was no such ill-effects when the volunteers drank red wine - either alcoholic or non-alcoholic - with their cigarette.

The researchers concluded that an ingredient in red wine, rather than alcohol, is responsible for this protective effect.

Other studies have suggested that the polyphenols in red wine are responsible for its supposed benefits to health.

This natural chemical is known to have anti-oxidant effects, which may protect against heart disease and cancer.

However, the Greek researchers warned that their findings must not be misinterpreted.

"This doesn't prove that regular consumption of red wine could possibly attenuate the harmful effect of chronic smoking.

"In addition, it is not wise to believe that a smoker could use two glasses of red wine for every cigarette he smoked in order to protect his vessels," they said.

However, they said the findings show that red wine has powerful ingredients which can counteract the effects of smoking on the body.

"This is very useful for the understanding of the mechanisms through which smoking induces arterial dysfunction and subsequent cardiovascular disease and hopeful for the discovery of substances capable of reversing smokes harmful effects," they said.

The study is the latest to point to the potential health benefits of drinking red wine.

Many scientists are now trying to isolate the key ingredients in red wine. They hope this could lead to new drugs to protect against heart disease, cancer and maybe even prolong life.

The findings were presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Vienna, Austria.

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