BACKGROUND: Regular consumption of small amounts of red wine improves blood lipids. However, there is concern whether this beneficial effect might be counterbalanced by an increase in blood pressure (BP) and heart rate (HR), which are risk factors for cerebro-cardiovascular disease. In particular, we studied whether regular consumption of red wine with and without lifestyle changes (LC; healthy diet and physical activity advice) results in an increase in BP and HR.
METHODS: A prospective, unblinded randomized trial was performed in 108 patients (67% men) with carotid atherosclerosis documented by ultrasound, a mean BP of 122/79 mm Hg and a mean HR of 71 bpm at inclusion in the study. Sixty-eight percent were known and treated hypertensives. The mean 24-hour BP at baseline was 122/79 mm Hg. Half of the study participants, the control group, was seen by a nurse at baseline, after 4 and after 20 weeks, and was instructed not to change their eating and physical activity habits. In the other half, a dietician performed five sessions of 30 min each (at baseline, after 1 week and after 2, 3 and 4 weeks) giving advice on healthy eating based on a Mediterranean diet and physical exercise. The recommendations given were the following: 5 portions of fruit/vegetables per day, a diet low in absolute fat, a preference of vegetable oil (olive or rapeseed oil), whole-grain products, poultry, low-fat dairy products, 1 fat and 1 lean fish meal per week, reduced consumption of red meat, and avoidance of pork, ready-made meals, sugar and excessive salt intake. In addition, regular consumption of 1 bar of dark chocolate (25 g, >70% of cacao), 1-2 tomatoes, and 3-5 walnuts as well as at least 30 min of moderate daily physical activity were recommended. Within these two groups, half of the patients were randomized either to avoid alcohol completely or to drink 100 ml (women) or 200 ml of red wine (men) daily.
RESULTS: Neither LC nor red wine had an effect on the mean systolic and diastolic 24-hour BP and HR after 4 and 20 weeks, as analyzed by general linear modeling. No difference was found for diurnal and nocturnal values.
CONCLUSIONS: The possible beneficial effect of regular consumption of small amounts of red wine is not counterbalanced in the long term by an increase in the mean BP or HR in mainly normotensive and well-treated hypertensive patients with carotid atherosclerosis, neither in the patients given healthy lifestyle advice nor in those with a standard lifestyle. Yet, we remain cautious about actively advice patients to drink alcohol regularly given the well-known risks.