Red wine is a time-honored component of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Consumption is associated with longer lifespan and less cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks.
Israeli investigators had 14 young healthy volunteers drink 250 cc of red wine daily for 21 days, while monitoring markers of circulatory function. Endothelial progenitor cells may be particularly important in maintenance, repair, and formation of the arterial circulatory system.
Here’s their conclusion:
The results of the present study indicate that red wine exerts its effect through the up-regulation of CXCR4 expression and activation of the SDF1/CXCR4/Pi3K/Akt/eNOS signaling pathway, which results in increased [endothelial progenitor cell] migration and proliferation and decreased extent of apoptosis. Our findings suggest that these effects could be linked to the mechanism of cardiovascular protection that is associated with the regular consumption of red wine.
I’m not going to tell you I understand all that. Don’t feel bad if you don’t, either. My point is to illustrate one way that Science makes progress. An observant person notices, “Hey, people who drink judicious amounts of red wine seem to live longer and have fewer heart attacks. I wonder how that works.” Perhaps a plausible mechanism is identified. That might lead to isolation of a specific component in red wine that yields the benefit. Then that component is produced and disseminated, leading to the health benefits, without the risks of alcohol consumption.
It’s an expensive, time-consuming enterprise with many blind alleys.
Reference: Hamed, Saher, et al. Red wine consumption improves the in vitro migration of endothelial progenitor cells in young, healthy individuals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, April 14, 2010. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.28408