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  • Resveratrol Confounds Heart Researchers

    January 14, 2020: by Bill Sardi

    Heart Researchers Are Confounded by a long-term (12.3 year) study where red wine drinkers who exhibited higher circulating cholesterol numbers and more severe calcification of coronary arteries, both known risk factors for mortality, paradoxically had a much lower risk for a major heart attack or cardiac death. (Has the so-called French Paradox been uncovered –the reason why the French who consume fattier foods and drink alcohol, have far lower cardiac death rates than North Americans?)

    In recent decades cardiologists have used cholesterol and calcification of coronary arteries as markers of risk for cardiac death. Historically, when it was reported as many patients with high total cholesterol die of a heart attack as those with low cholesterol, cardiologists pointed to elevated LDL (low density lipoproteins) as the chief culprit. Though there is scientific question as to whether LDL cholesterol is really linked to death from any cause.

    In 1990 it was Dr. Arthur Agatston, a South Beach, Florida, cardiologist who developed a scoring scheme for heart attack risk due to stiffening of coronary arteries via calcification. A calcium score of zero = zero cardiac risk.

    The most recent published study of 1621 non-symptomatic (no angina chest pain) subjects, there were no deaths among 50% of the subjects who had a calcium arterial score of zero whereas a subgroup with calcium scores of 400+ had a 3.3-fold increased relative risk for death from all causes compared to the subjects with zero calcification.

    Another recent study showed middle-aged adults with a calcium arterial score of 100+ had a 10-times increased mortality risk compared to individuals with a calcium score of zero.

    So, the link between calcification of coronary arteries that supply the heart with oxygenated blood and cardiac mortality appears convincing, even compelling. Yet red wine consumption defied calcification in regard to mortality.

    Molecules known as polyphenols (resveratrol, quercetin, catechin, gallic acid), concentrated in alcohol-free wine, appear to be responsible for improved circulation among wine drinkers, not alcohol itself.

    Since half of first-time heart attacks occur among individuals who had no prior symptoms, it becomes acutely important to identify risk factors among individuals who are at risk. This has been a perplexing task. Cardiac researchers cannot reassure individuals with low lifetime risk that they will be free of arterial disease.

    This is evidenced by a study of 44,052 subjects that showed a group of individuals with zero risk factors (no diabetes, elevated cholesterol, etc.) and elevated arterial calcium levels had a mortality rate of 16.89/1000-person years compared to another group with 3 or more risk factors and a calcium score of zero with a mortality rate of 2.74/1000-person years. This suggests measuring blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, may be meaningless markers for cardiovascular disease compared to deposition of calcium in coronary arteries.

    Among individuals with high-risk factors for heart disease and cardiac death, they have a remote chance of dying from heart disease (would have to treat 285 subjects to avert 1 heart attack). Arterial calcium scores, which require a CT scan (and accompanying exposure to radiation), appears to predominate over other risk factors. Some cardiologists now suggest traditional risk factors be abandoned.

    These researchers confront cardiologists over whether they have the courage to cease all the cholesterol testing that evokes unfounded fears in their patients. However, cholesterol testing that brings patients back to the doctor’s office. So, the cholesterol charade goes on.

    In laboratory mice, resveratrol reduced arterial plaque and calcification.

    But as mentioned at the top of this report, red wine molecules even lowered mortality risk when cholesterol and coronary artery calcification numbers were high.

    In other words, regardless of cholesterol and calcium scores, resveratrol serves to reduce the risk for cardiac death. This suggests the modern cardiology should center its efforts to prevent cardiac death around resveratrol rather than cholesterol. Such a new paradigm is not even being considered in cardiology. There is too much money being made under the present cholesterol paradigm.

    The best form of preventive heart disease would be to negate the damaging effects of a heart attack should such an event occur. Given that medical ethics prevents any human experiments that may have mortal consequences, animal laboratory testing must suffice.

    Over 20-years ago it was demonstrated that resveratrol reduces the area of damage (scarring, or fibrosis) in the heart when an experimental heart attack is induced in laboratory animals. The most compelling study was conducted using resveratrol + vitamin D. When blood circulation was experimentally blocked to the heart and then re-opened so as to create a toxic species of oxygen that “kills” heart muscle cells, 41.3% of the heart was damaged. This declined to 33.8% with vitamin D and 30.1% with resveratrol. But when the combination of vitamin D + resveratrol was fed to these lab animals, only 17% of heart muscle was damaged, which would turn an otherwise mortal heart attack into a non-mortal event.

    Below is a chart showing from the study that showed red wine drinkers had higher calcium-arterial scores but dramatically better survival.

    Charts: Resveratrol Paradox, Survival

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