Long known as a celebratory drink or the party drink of the rich and famous, champagne is rarely a daily indulgence. So, unlike red wine, which in some Mediterranean countries is a regular part of diet, and which has been shown to positively impact heart health, champagne consumption has not up to now been studied to see if it too might have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease (CVD). A new study from the University of Reading in the UK, and researcher in Reims, France aims to change that. Reims is the centre of the champagne-producing region of France, and home to some of the biggest names in the champagne business.
The reduction in CVD mortality seen with moderate red wine consumption is thought to be due to both its alcohol content and to its high content of polyphenols. Polyphenols are protective phytochemicals, the best known of which is resveratrol. They act as antioxidants and are known to improve blood flow and reduce blood pressure. White wine is lower in polyphenols and has significantly reduced vascular benefits. Champagne is made from two red grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, as well as the white grape Chardonnay, and has higher levels of polyphenols than white wine. Moderate Champagne consumption has previously been shown to exert a number of potentially beneficial effects, including modulating peripheral serotonin and dopamine release and increasing plasma vitamin A concentrations.
In this study the researchers performed a randomized, single-blind, controlled, cross-over design study in order to assess whether acute, moderate Champagne consumption was capable of altering endothelial function in healthy human volunteers. [The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that line blood vessels]. They found that consumption of Champagne, but not a control drink matched for alcohol, carbohydrate and fruit-derived acid content, induced changes in endothelium-independent vasodilatation at 4 and 8 h post-consumption.
The researchers concluded that Champagne may improve microvasculature blood flow and therefore would be likely to improve heart health. Further investigation will be necessary to determine if chronic, moderate intake of Champagne has the potential to significantly impact CVD risk. One imagines that researchers will have no difficulty recruiting participants for such long term studies!
Reference: Moderate Champagne consumption promotes an acute improvement in acute endothelial-independent vascular function in healthy human volunteers. Vauzour D et al. British Journal of Nutrition 2010;103(8):1168-78.