Break out the Bubbly!: Moderate Champagne consumption is linked to improved cardiovascular health.

Since this is my first discussion of a peer-reviewed journal article for The Academic Wino, I thought I’d celebrate by breaking out the bubbly!

Today’s discussion is on a study by David Vauzour et al, from the University of Reading, UK (with co-authors hailing from the University of Reading, the Laboratoire de Biochimie et Biologie Moléculaire and the Laboratoire de Biologie et de Recherche Pédiatriques in France).  The title of the article, whose full citation you will find at the end of this post, is:

Moderate Champagne consumption promotes an acute improvement in acute endothelial-independent vascular function in healthy human volunteers

Introduction

Research has suggested that there is an inverse correlation between the consumption of foods rich in polyphenols and the prevention of cardiovascular disease.  In other words, as the amount of polyphenol-rich foods in a person’s diet increases, their chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease decreases.  

Red wine has also been shown to have this same effect on cardiovascular health, which may be linked in part to its alcohol content, and also to its high concentration of polyphenols (specifically, flavonoids, hydroxycinnamates, and phenolic acids).  Molecularly, these polyphenols enter circulation, where then they potentially act to improve nitric oxide (NO) availability and inhibit endothelin-1, which result in improved cardiovascular function.  White wine, however, with lower concentrations of these polyphenols, has been shown to not exhibit these same cardiovascular benefits, resulting from a significantly reduced vascular response.

Champagne (a.k.a ‚Äúsparkling wine‚ÄĚ in the US) has been shown to contain relatively high amounts of polyphenols, which results from the fact that Champagne is produced using red grapes blended together with white grapes (only with no skin contact, so the wine appears white).¬† In France, the two red grapes used in Champagne are Pinor Noir and Pinor Meunier, which are often blended together with the white grape Chardonnay.¬† Since there is no skin contact in Champagne wine, it is likely that the health-beneficial polyphenols are located in the grape juice, and not in the grape skins.

Moderate Champagne wine consumption has been shown to affect peripheral serotonin and dopamine release, and also increasing plasma Vitamin A concentrations.  The polyphenols in Champagne wine have also been shown to protect cells against injury caused by peroxynitrite, a compound which has been implicated in situations where there is vascular wall damage.

The question then is, does moderate Champagne wine consumption actually improve vascular function in humans, which would have implications for cardiovascular health?  Or is there no effect or even more damaging effects on vascular function with Champagne wine consumption?

Study Methods

The method employed for this study was a randomized, single-blind, controlled, cross-over design.  Healthy male and female subjects (n=15) between the ages of 20 and 65 (mean 39.5 years) with a BMI (body mass index) of 18.9-28.4 kg/m2 participated.  All came from the University of Reading or the surrounding area.  Study subjects were put on a specific diet, with specific foods/drinks omitted, so as to avoid any potential conflicting results based on varying diet choices of individuals.  Study subjects were healthy, according to a medical questionnaire.

Study subjects were asked to consume either 375mL of Champagne wine (produced with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grapes, with 12% alcohol) or a controlled match for alcohol, fruit sugars and acids.  Urine and blood samples were collected from study subjects both before, during and after the study, and analyzed for a variety of compounds.  (More detailed explanation of specific methods and results may be found in the article cited below).

Discussion of Results and Conclusions

This study found that the consumption of both the Champagne wine and the alcohol control induced a rapid increase in endothelium-dependent vasodilatation (i.e. increased blood flow), which returned to their baseline levels after 8 hours.  This result confirms what has already been shown regarding alcohol consumption and increased blood flow.

What is more fascinating is that this study showed only the Champagne wine was able to induce an increase in endothelium-independent vasodilatation, which was maintained up to 8 hours later, which suggests that Champagne wine consumption may increase microvascular blood flow for a longer period of time, occurring through sustained increases in NO levels.  The mechanism responsible for this result may be caused by the absorption of the polyphenols present in the Champagne wine, whose metabolites were detected in the urine samples provided.  The presence of these metabolites in the urine samples of study subjects suggest that they are absorbed into circulation following the consumption of Champagne wine (this same result has also been found in studies using red wine).  In other words, these metabolites, which are created from the polyphenols originally present in the Champagne wine and which are subsequently absorbed into circulation, may be improving vascular function by increasing NO availability, which ultimately results in lower blood pressure and increased cardiovascular function.

Based on the results of this study, the authors concluded that Champagne wine has the potential to improve cutaneous microvasculature (i.e. arterioles, capillaries, and venules).  If this is true, then it would effectively reduce the stiffening of smaller arteries, and show a decline in arterial compliance.  Both stiffening of smaller arteries and arterial compliance have been observed with natural ageing, in hypertensive individuals, in individuals with diabetes, and also in individuals with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.  Thereby, the results of this study suggest that moderate Champagne wine consumption may improve microvasculature blood flow, and ultimately vascular responsiveness in general.

Final Thoughts

I found this study very fascinating, in that it appears wines other than red wine have important cardiovascular health benefits.  Of course, there are likely other factors involved that were not discussed here, and there are always negative effects on health when alcohol is consumed in excess, however, the implications that red and Champagne wine (when consumed in moderation) have cardiovascular health benefits are incredible! 

I also find it interesting that even though Champagne looks like a white wine in color, it behaves more like a red wine in regards to its cardiovascular benefits.  This leads me to believe that the polyphenols, and other important compounds associated with these benefits, are located in the juice of the grape, and not in the red grape skins as I initially assumed!  Since Champagne wine (in France anyway) contains a lot of juice from red grapes as well as white grapes, it makes sense that it would share some of the same benefits as red wine. 

So, if you’re not a fan of red wine in one way or another, but you still would like to take advantage of the cardiovascular health benefits, I suggest having a glass of Champagne or Sparkling Wine with your meal at night!  Just be sure that the grapes used in the production of that particular Champagne or Sparkling Wine are red (or at least one red). 

Cheers to that, I say!

Full Citation:

Vauzour, D., Houseman, E.J., George, T.W., Corona, G., Garnotel, R., Jackson, K.G., Sellier, C., Gillery, P., Kennedy, O.B., Lovegrove, J.A., and J.P.E. Spencer. 2010. Moderate Champagne consumption promotes an acute improvement in acute endothelial-independent vascular function in healthy human volunteers. British Journal of Nutrition 103: 1168-1178.


Disclaimer:  I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!