As it turns out, red wine and chocolate may not be as “heart healthy” as we thought. In a recent study published in the journal, JAMA Internal Medicine, an antioxidant known as resveratrol, found in high quantities in red wine, dark chocolate, peanuts and other foods, was shown not to effectively fight inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and cancer—contrary to previous research suggesting otherwise.
Jorge Alégria, MD, FACC, FASE, director of adult cardiology at Carolinas HealthCare System’s Sanger Heart & Vascular Institute, shares his thoughts:
What are the major implications of the findings?
"I think the major implication of this study is the confirmation that when we only look at one isolated element of nutrition (in this case, one type of polyphenol, called resveratrol) we should not expect wonderful health benefits. Nutrition is very complex and currently there is not strong evidence-based data suggesting that any of these compounds truly provide health benefits. What we do have is good evidence that some of them can be dangerous to our health."
What are your recommendations for the average person, in terms of red wine and chocolate consumption?
"I do not know of any strong evidence-based scientific data to support that red wine and chocolate are as good for us as promoted. There are some epidemiological studies that suggest slight benefit, but those studies are extremely difficult to interpret. For example, alcohol has been associated with breast cancer in women. We derive more health benefits if we eat fruits like grapes, blueberries and others that are rich in antioxidants, along with other healthy elements that whole foods include."
In your opinion, what comprises a heart-healthy diet?
"Great question! A heart-healthy diet is a heart-healthy lifestyle, where healthy food choices are made every day -- for example, eating five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. In essence, a heart-healthy diet is not a 'diet' as we usually use the term now (meaning a short duration to achieve some result). Our Greek ancestors got it right. They stuck to a true Mediterranean diet that is mostly based around whole foods and plants, with little meat, some fish and no processed foods at all – and no sugar. It’s a great place to start in finding a heart-healthy diet."