Raise your glass: Red wine molecules could lower blood pressure, study claims

Researchers are hopeful the resveratrol molecule found in red wine could change the way high blood pressure is managed. Source: Pexels

While alcohol intake is a major risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases and people are usually told to cut back on drinking, it turns out red wine might not be all bad when it comes to high blood pressure.

A molecule found in the drink could one day be used to lower blood pressure and target other major heart and circulatory diseases, British researchers have claimed. A new study led by researchers from the King’s British Heart Foundation Centre of Excellence says the molecule, known as resveratrol, is a compound produced by the skins of certain fruits such as grapes in self defence against insects, bacteria and fungi.

Researchers gave a dose of resveratrol to mice with induced high blood pressure to test whether the molecule had any impact on lowering hypertension. They found that resveratrol caused the blood vessels of mice to relax and their blood pressure to drop — noting the molecule interacted with a protein in the walls of the blood vessels.

The study, published in the Circulation Journal, also demonstrated that resveratrol works in the same way in smooth muscle cells from human blood vessels. At present, there’s no medication or treatment that specifically targets this pathway and the findings could lead to the development of new blood pressure medications.

“Our work could lay the foundations for chemically altering resveratrol to improve its delivery to the body, or designing new, more potent drugs which use the same pathway,” Lead Researcher Joseph Burgoyne said in a statement. “In the future, we could have a whole new class of blood pressure drugs.”

While the results sound promising, experts don’t recommend guzzling down as much red wine as possible to lower blood pressure.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t the all clear to reach for the wine rack,” Metin Avkiran, Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation, said in a statement. “To get the human equivalent dose of resveratrol used here, you’d need to drink an impossible amount of red wine every day – which is both unfeasible and inadvisable.”

Read more: Half of Aussies with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it: Study

Instead, the study shows an unexpected way resveratrol works to lower blood pressure and how future medication could be developed in a similar way.

“The findings bring us a step closer to tackling this ‘silent killer’ which puts people at risk of having a devastating stroke or heart attack,” Avkiran said.

Blood pressure is the pressure of blood on the walls of arteries as the heart pumps it around the body. It’s normal for it to rise and fall but when a blood pressure reading is regularly over 120/80mmHg, it’s usually a sign that it needs to be managed with lifestyle changes, medication or diet modification.

Read more: High blood pressure linked to dementia: Study

Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke and serious kidney issues. In most cases, there are no side effects, which is why blood pressure should be checked regularly.

It’s always important to talk to a GP about blood pressure, the best ways to manage it and discuss any major changes to diet or lifestyle to ensure it doesn’t negatively impact overall health.

Do you have high blood pressure? How do you manage the condition?

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