Many studies cannot show any important differences in heart disease rates on the basis of the type of alcohol usually consumed. On the other hand, we are accumulating new data that suggest that many of the biologically active substances in wine, particularly red wine — substances such as tannins, phenols, resveratrol, and quercetin — are powerful antioxidants, tend to reduce blood clotting, and have other effects that should reduce heart disease risk.
A number of studies have shown that wine drinkers do better than beer and spirits drinkers in terms of disease outcomes. For example, in a large study from the Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in California, researchers found less heart disease among wine drinkers, and not just red wine drinkers, than among drinkers of other beverages. Similar results have been reported from studies in Copenhagen and Scotland. However, at least in some countries, wine drinkers may be different in many ways from beer or spirits drinkers. For example, in the United States, wine drinkers tend to be better educated, have higher incomes, smoke less, and exercise more than beer drinkers. It is difficult to be sure that wine drinkers are healthier because they drink wine or because people who have healthier lifestyles tend to drink wine.
I interpret the scientific data as showing that wine probably has additional benefits not found in other beverages. On the other hand, all types of alcohol provide protection against CAD. Patients who don't like wine but are having a cocktail before dinner most nights (and are not having a problem with excessive or inappropriate drinking) can continue to enjoy it.
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