Low-alcohol Red Wine Reduced PAH Symptoms in Rats

Marisa Wexler, MS avatar

by Marisa Wexler, MS |

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Regularly consuming low-alcohol red wine reduced signs of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) in a rat model of the disease, a study shows.

“The results of this study suggest that chronic moderate consumption of RARW [reduced-alcohol red wine] or its components may represent a promising new protective strategy to limit cardiovascular dysfunction in PAH,” the researchers wrote.

The study, “Chronic and moderate consumption of reduced-alcohol wine confers cardiac benefits in a rat model of pulmonary arterial hypertension,” was published in the journal BMC Research Notes.

PAH is characterized by inflammation and other abnormalities in pulmonary blood vessels and the heart. One of the biological processes thought to drive these abnormalities is oxidative stress, a type of cell damage caused by  oxygen-containing molecules that react with cellular components like DNA, damaging them in the process.

In addition to containing alcohol, red wine contains many antioxidants,  which are compounds that can reduce oxidative stress. Some research has suggested that moderate red wine consumption may protect against some health problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. However, whether drinking red wine helps to lessen the odds of developing PAH is unknown.

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Here, researchers at the University of Cape Town in South Africa tested the effect of consuming reduced-alcohol red wine (RARW) in a rat model of PAH, induced by injecting the rats with a chemical called monocrotaline.

Reduced-alcohol wine was used to lessen any adverse effects related to chronic alcohol consumption, the researchers noted. The wine was given starting a week prior to monocrotaline injection, at a dose meant to “mimic moderate intake for humans,” they wrote.

Rats injected with monocrotaline showed characteristic PAH-like changes in their circulatory system. For instance, the right ventricle — the part of the heart that pumps blood to the lungs — was increased in size in PAH rats. However, in rats that had chronically consumed RARW, the extent of these changes was significantly reduced. For example, rats given RARW had significantly smaller right ventricles.

Monocrolatine injection also caused abnormalities in echocardiography measures, for example, decreased pulmonary artery acceleration time (PAAT), which is the speed of blood traveling from the heart to the lungs. In line with the physiological results, RARW consumption partially reversed normalized changes in PAAT and other echocardiography abnormalities in rats with PAH.

“Our data show, for the first time to our knowledge, that chronic and moderate consumption of RARW confers cardiovascular protection in an MCT [monocrotaline]-induced PAH model,” the researchers concluded.

Further investigations showed that RARW was associated with reduced markers of lipid peroxidation — that is, oxidative damage to fatty molecules.

“High consumption of antioxidants such as those found in red wine can decrease oxidative stress levels and contribute to health protection … Significant reduction in oxidants after wine consumption suggests that moderate and chronic red wine consumption could protect against lipid peroxidation in the circulation,” the team wrote.

Among the limitations of this study, the team said the methods they used to assess oxidative stress and lipid peroxidation “are still widely used due to their cost-effectiveness and ease of method,” but that “more accurate and sensitive (but often more costly and time-consuming) techniques to assess lipid peroxidation and oxidative stress are available.”

They also noted that the way people tend to drink wine (undiluted, and usually only at specific times of the day) differs from how the rats were given RARW in the experiments. As such, further research is needed to understand the potential benefits of consuming red wine and/or its components.