Red wine has been shown to confer certain health benefits. In particular, red wine may protect from the development of cardiovascular disease. The reason for this is not fully understood, but it it known that ethanol (alcohol) is able to decrease the risk of a heart attack for around 24 hours following consumption, and so this may partly explain the cardioprotective effects of red wine. However, red wine is also a good source of a group of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) called polyphenols. One polyphenol in red wine that has been researched for its cardioprotective effect is a resveratrol, a phytochemical from the stilbene family. Resveratrol is a strong antioxidant that is bioactive in humans, and it may protect from cardiovascular disease through its ability to prevent oxidation in the blood vessels. In addition, resveratrol may confer protection from cancer as some evidence suggests that is able to inhibit the growth of new blood vessels that are required for the growth of tumours, a process called angiogenesis.
Red wine may therefore reduce the risk of two Western lifestyle diseases, namely cardiovascular disease and cancer. However, some cannot drink red wine for various reasons and therefore such individuals might think they have to miss out on the benefits of resveratrol. However, other sources of resveratrol are available, one particularly good source being peanuts. Studies have shown that the risk of a heart attack drops by around 20 % with just one month of consuming peanut butter or whole peanuts in those consuming a Western diet. The reason for this is not clear but other research has shown that peanuts are able to favourable alter the low density lipoprotein (LDL) to high density lipoprotein (HDL) ratio and this in turn is known to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. Peanuts are not actually true nuts (tree nuts) but are pulses that come from plants in the legume family. Studies show that many legumes are cardioprotective and therefore it is not surprising that peanuts also share this effect.
Dr Robert Barrington’s Nutritional Recommendation: Red wine is a great drink to share socially and when consumed in moderation can confer significant health benefits. However, some of the benefits of red wine can be obtained from other foods. Peanuts seem to be a good source of antioxidants and this may explain their cardioprotective effects. Whole unshelled peanuts provide the best nutrition because the shells protect the seeds inside from oxidation and this in turn stops the fatty acids from going rancid.