Background: A Mediterranean diet, with and without small daily amounts of red wine, and physical activity reduce the risk of cerebrovascular disease and improve cognition. An increase in cerebral blood flow may be the underlying mechanism. Under normal conditions, cerebral blood flow velocity changes in the internal carotid arteries and in large basal cerebral arteries correlate closely with cerebral blood flow changes, as the diameter of these vessels hardly changes and only the smaller vessels downstream change their diameter. Methods: A prospective randomized controlled trial was performed in 108 patients with carotid atherosclerosis (mean age 64 years, 67% men, 66% on statin therapy). Half of them were advised to follow a polyphenol-rich modified Mediterranean diet including 1-2 tomatoes, 3-5 walnuts and a bar of dark chocolate (25 g) a day and to perform moderate physical exercise for 30 min/day (lifestyle changes). Within these two groups, half of the patients were randomized either to avoid any alcohol or to drink 100 ml of red wine (women) or 200 ml of red wine (men) daily. Bilateral middle cerebral and internal carotid blood flow velocity (peak systolic, peak end-diastolic and mean) was measured at baseline and after 4 and 20 weeks using colour-coded duplex ultrasound. Insonation depth and insonation angle were used to identically place the sample volume during follow-up investigations. A general linear model with Tukey-Kramer adjustment for multiple comparisons was used to assess the primary end points. For the analysis we used the mean values of the right and left artery. Results: Neither lifestyle changes nor red wine had an effect on peak systolic, peak end-diastolic or mean cerebral blood flow velocity. Conclusions: Advice on lifestyle changes, including a modified polyphenol-rich Mediterranean diet, a glass of red wine daily and physical exercise, did not affect middle cerebral and internal carotid blood flow velocity in our patient group with carotid atherosclerosis. An increase in cerebral blood flow is thus unlikely to be the cause of the reduced risk of cerebrovascular disease and improved cognitive functioning described in the literature. One possible explanation for the fact that blood flow velocity was not affected by red wine, diet and physical activity advice is that two thirds of our patients were already on statin therapy. Statins increase cerebral blood flow and vasomotor reactivity via nitric oxide.
- Carotid arteries
- Cerebrovascular circulation