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Tuesday, 27 April, 1999, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Cabernet 'best for the heart'
Take your pick - but Cabernet Sauvignon " is best for health"
A doctor has named what he thinks is the best wine for a healthy heart - Cabernet Sauvignon.

Scientists have long suggested that red wine can help cut the risk of heart disease, although the benefits seem to apply only to men over 40 and women after the menopause.

One study, however, suggests people as young as 33 can benefit from moderate alcohol consumption.

Dr Jean-Paul Broustet, of Haut Leveque Hospital in Pessac, southern France, made his claim in the UK medical journal, Heart.

He comes from the Bordeaux region - famed for its production of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

He said the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes had high levels of resveratrol - which increases levels of "good" cholesterol and slows production of "bad" cholesterol.

"Bad" cholesterol - or low density lipoprotein - can block arteries and cause heart disease.

He said: "The highest concentrations of resveratrol . . . are found in red wines, particularly in Cabernet Sauvignon grapes of Bordeaux."

Resveratrol protects red grapes from a potentially deadly fungus called Botrytis cinerea.

Red grapes are also high in other antioxidants called polyphenols that prevent cell damage from free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable oxygen molecules that enter cells and damage DNA.

Quercitin is another health-protecting compound in red wine - it helps widen blood vessels and prevent blood clots.

Wine benefits

Researchers from Glasgow University had singled out Chilean reds - including Cabernet Sauvignon - for their health-enhancing potential in an earlier study.

Other previous research had shown that red wine - even diluted 100 times - is a better antioxidant than vitamin E.

A couple of glasses a day can do no harm, the doctor says
But Dr Broustet rejected the idea of a pill containing the antioxidant elements of red wine.

He suggested that a lot of the health benefit associated with red wine had as much to do with its bouquet and taste, as well as the company the drinker kept when consuming it.

He said: "The effects of a good red wine are strongly linked to the pleasure of educating the nose and palate, the wine selection, the knowledge of its vineyard, and the degustation (tasting) in a warm and enjoyable environment."

Dr Broustet also dismissed fears that red wine - because of its alcohol content - could prove detrimental to health.

Naughty drinkers

He said that adverse effects such as heart problems, high blood pressure, liver damage, traffic accidents and dementia were the "problems of naughty drinkers".

In conclusion, he said: "The daily consumption of half a bottle of red wine with food does not seem to have any harmful effects other than adding 250 calories to your diet."

The British Heart Foundation is well aware of the potential health benefits of red wine.

Professor Gerry Shaper says the benefits are small
A spokesman told BBC News Online: "There's healthy stuff in red wine, and small amounts of alcohol are beneficial generally.

"However, despite these benefits we would not advise teetotallers to take up drinking."

Professor Gerry Shaper, of London's Royal Free Hospital, said the benefits were there but were extremely small.

He said: "Nobody should be drinking for health - they should be drinking lightly for pleasure."

Dr Jean-Paul Broustet describes the benefits of Cabernet Sauvignon
The BBC's Sue Nelson: "Scientists who made these latest claims are themselves from Bordeaux"
Professor Gerry Shaper assesses the importance of red wine
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