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EPA and DHA: Is Your Heart Giving You an Excuse to Imbibe?

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At this point, many of us have likely caught wind of one study or another claiming that red wine is good for your heart. Some skeptics may have researched that claim, while happy drinkers needed to hear no more than "red wine is good" before they raised their glasses in celebration.

But why exactly is red wine good for you? Initial studies found that the antioxidants (polyphenols) in red wine act to increase healthy HDL levels in the blood, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease. But a new study out of Lyon, France has found that red wine may protect your heart in additional ways. The Lyon Diet Heart Study set out to test whether a diet rich in plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids would reduce the risk of cardiovascular stress in subjects who had already experience a heart attack. And surprise, surprise - they found that plant-derived omega-3 fatty acids converted into the fatty acids found in fish, eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosahexanoic acid (DHA), which prevent against heart disease.

The fact that fatty acids that mimic the effects of such heart-healthy fish products like salmon may not be news to healthy women. But here's the twist (and where we get back to the important subject - vino): the Lyon Diet Heart Study researchers controlled for fat consumption in their subjects, and compared their cardiovascular health based on levels on alcohol intake (which gave them ample room to study, this being the wine-loving region of Lyon, France). No alcohol-heart disease studies have done this before. Researchers found that with fatty-acid consumption controlled, the subjects who drank the most experienced the highest levels of EPA and DHA in their blood - and thereby the greatest heart health. In fact, the difference in EPA levels between the minimal drinkers also with low fatty acid levels, and the moderate-to-heavy drinkers with high fatty acid levels was 83%! That translates into a 50-75% reduced risk of heart attack!

So what have we learned from our hearty oenophiles in France? If you want to do well by your ticker, enjoy a glass of wine - and a fillet of salmon - for dinner tonight! Who says red doesn't go with fish?!

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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