Alcohol, Wine and Platelet Function
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated an inverse correlation between moderate wine and alcohol consumption and morbidity and mortality from coronary heart disease. The protective effect has been associated with an increase in the plasma level of HDL cholesterol, as it is well recognized that plasma HDL is inversely correlated with CHD. In addition, it has become evident that blood platelets contribute to the rate of development of atherosclerosis and CHD through several mechanisms. In recent studies it has been shown that the level of HDL cholesterol can explain only 50 % of the protective effect of alcoholic beverages; the other 50 % may be partly related to a decrease in platelet activity. This anti-platelet activity of wine is explained by ethanol but also by the polyphenolic components with which red wines are richly endowed. Several studies carried out on humans and animals have shown that wine phenolics could exert their effects by reducing prostanoid synthesis from arachidonate. In addition, it has been suggested that wine phenolics could reduce platelet activity mediated by nitric oxide. Moreover, wine phenolics increase vitamin E levels while decreasing the oxidation of platelets submitted to oxidative stress. However, a rebound phenomenon of hyperaggregability is observed after an acute alcohol consumption which is not observed with wine consumption. This protection afforded by wine has been duplicated in animals with grape phenolics added to alcohol. The rebound phenomenon may explain ischemic strokes or sudden deaths known to occur after episodes of drunkenness. It appears that wine, and wine phenolics in particular, could have a more significant inhibitory effect on platelet aggregation and could explain, in part, the hypothesis that red wine is more protective against atherosclerosis and coronary heart disease.