When you raise a glass to toast with champagne this Thanksgiving, you are doing your heart a favor, according to a new study.

The results of the study revealed how moderate alcohol consumption can help to prevent heart disease by blocking the signals of molecules linked to plaque build-up in arteries. The molecules, called “Notch” proteins, are vital to embryonic development, and in adults, they help control the tiny, involuntary muscles that regulate blood flow though arteries. When Notch molecules are stimulated — by high levels of cholesterol, smoking or changes in blood flow — they spur these smooth muscle cells to multiply, which can lead to development of arterial plaques, said study researcher Eileen Redmond, an associate professor in the department of surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center.

But when these smooth muscle cells are exposed to alcohol, the Notch signaling is blocked, and the cells in the arterial wall don’t grow and thicken, Redmond said.

Drinking “small amounts, regularly, is how to get the best effect,” she told MyHealthNewsDaily. “It’s the people who drink one to two drinks a day who have the best protection” from heart disease. However, large amounts of alcohol and binge drinking can be harmful to the heart and can lead to stroke, according to the American Heart Association.

The study was published Nov. 18 in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.
Testing the Theory Researchers grew cells from human coronary arteries in dishes, and exposed them to alcohol. They found that alcohol stopped growth of the arterial cells by putting the brakes on the signaling abilities of Notch, Redmond said.

Then, the researchers tested the effects of alcohol in mice. They gave one group of mice the equivalent of two alcohol drinks a day, and another group no alcohol. Mice given the alcohol had less Notch signaling, and their blood vessels walls were thinner than the mice that didn’t drink, according to the study.

The finding demonstrates how alcohol works to benefit the heart — and paves the way for future research for a drug that can mimic alcohol, Redmond said. “If we can understand the mechanisms mediating the beneficial effects of moderate alcohol consumption, we can develop therapy that can mimic good effects without the intoxicating and deleterious effects of alcohol,” she said.

Real-life Applications

The finding supports evidence from other studies that modest alcohol consumption is good for heart health. A study presented at an American Heart Association meeting this month found that male heart bypass patients who drank lightly or moderately were less likely to need another heart procedure or suffer a heart attack or stroke than patients who didn’t drink.

But what counts as a “healthy” dose of alcohol? The Mayo Clinic recommends healthy women drink no more than three drinks on one occasion, or seven drinks a week, and healthy men ages 65 and younger drink no more than four drinks per occasion, or 14 drinks a week. Healthy men ages 65 and older should drink no more than three drinks per occasion, or seven drinks a week.

A 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits counts as one drink, according to the Mayo Clinic.


My Health News

Linthwaite House Hotel in Cumbria is the annual winner of the Condé Nast Johansens Champagne Taittinger – ‘Wine List of the Year’ award

The judging panel for the awards included; Justin Llewelyn, ambassador for Champagne, Taittinger Sarah-Jane Evans, MW and wine editor of BBC Good Food and Olive Magazine, Andrew Warren, managing director, Condé Nast Johansens and Fiona Patrick, client services director for Johansens who acted as facilitator and joint organiser.

Judges described the wine list at Linthwaite House Hotel as: “A really well put together list which is easy to read, educational as well as humorous and a joy to handle.”

Lynn Murray, marketing director of Hatch Mansfield – the sole UK agent for Champagne Taittinger – said: “Linthwaite House Hotel has a truly impressive list and offers choice at great value, an important consideration in these challenging times.”

Carol Emmas, Harpers


Champagne producers expect to be back to record growth by 2013, according to expert Giles Fallowfield.

Fallowfield said producers say they’ll make between 315 and 320 million bottles this year, and are estimating they’ll have made a full recovery to 340 million bottles, and be back to record new growth, by 2013.

Between 1998 and 2007 worldwide Champagne sales rose 14.6%. “Prior to the economic downturn it was becoming a real concern for Champagne that demand would soon outstrip supply,” said Fallowfield.

Fallowfield made the comments during a presentation at the Champagne Assembly, hosted by GH Mumm and Perrier-Jouet at the Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green, London, on Monday.

The producing area in Champagne will expand to 34,000 ha within a couple of years, which would mean producing 400 million bottles per year, said Fallowfield.

He said the trend for rosé Champagne in the UK market – which grew by 20% between 2000 and 2006 had remained because the quality had improved.

“The Champenois have a particular forte for reinventing themselves. If they were to lose that they would become just another sparkling wine,” he added.

Experts also predicted that emerging markets will soon overtake the western world in the consumption of luxury markets. Fflur Roberts, global head of luxury goods at Euromonitor, said: “By 2014 emerging economies will have overtaken developed economies when it come to the consumption of luxury goods.

She added that they have toned down their spending on luxury goods by “consoling themselves with smaller luxury purchases, such as Champagne, in what is known as the “lipstick effect””.

“The western consumer is taking small steps back in to the luxury goods market, whereas the Asian consumer is taking huge leaps,” said Roberts.

Gemma McKenna, Harpers


Australian consumers are being treated to considerable reductions in Champagne prices and the latest research figures suggest they are making the most of it.

According to market researchers Nielsen the average price of Champagne has fallen by over eight percent per bottle over the past two years, from $65.58 in 2008 to $60.43 for the 12 months ending September 2010.

As a result, the Champagne segment has enjoyed a 17.5 percent increase in volume sales, over the 12 months to September 2010; a significant feat given growth had been flat over the prior two years driven by the impact of the Global Financial Crisis.

According to Nielsen, this trend can be attributed to a stronger Australian dollar, lower priced retailer controlled brands and aggressive discounting.

And it is a similar story across the globe, with Champagne sales in Great Britain recording 15.5 percent volume growth, and an overall reduction in the average price per bottle – an indication of growth being driven by the lower end of the market, as well as through considerable discounting.

Implications of this trend has meant that sales for the Sparkling Wine segment (excluding
Champagne) in Australia, has decreased in volume by 1.5 percent over the 12 months to September 2010, and now sits only fractionally above sales levels of two years ago.

The decrease in sales has occurred despite a small drop in average price per bottle from $10.32 to $10.22 over this period.

Liz Watkinson, Nielsen’s Director of Liquor (Pacific), also revealed results from a recent Consumer Research study addressing the change in consumers spending habits versus a year ago.

“The research confirmed that among lower income households (less than $40,000 pa), a third of consumers who buy wine in the off-premise market have claimed to purchase less of the category versus a year ago”, she said.

“While among higher income earners (greater than $80,000 pa), over a quarter said that they had increased their frequency of purchasing wine.

“These trends are clear indicators that the Champagne segment is set to sparkle over the upcoming festive season, both for suppliers and consumers,” said Watkinson.

Andrew Starke

TOP FOUR CHAMPAGNES MOST CELLAR-WORTHY FOR 2010 by Editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine

[of Top 100 Cellar Selections]

Henriot 1996 Cuvée des Enchanteleurs Brut $185. With all the extreme intensity of this vintage, this wine brings even more. The start of cookie yeast and toast character, a vibrant mineral texture, hints of spice, green herbs and a final white peach flavor. It is still young, just keep aging. Imported by Henriot Inc.

Moët & Chandon 1996 Dom Pérignon Oenothèque Brut $385. A magnificent Champagne, one that is light, delicate, yet packed with character. It is beautifully balanced, with a bone-dry character, just softened by the toastiness that is developing. Expect this to age for many years. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.

Bollinger 1997 RD Brut $260. Disgorged in 2009, this is a toasty wine, rich and concentrated. The idea of long aging before disgorging the yeast cells is to build up the unique complexity of the wine. In this Bollinger has succeeded magnificently. An opulent wine, with aging potential for 10 years or more. Imported by Terlato Wines International.

Krug 1998 Clos du Mesnil $1,400. A wine that has created its own universe. It has a unique, special softness that allies with the total purity that comes from a small, enclosed single vineyard. The fruit is almost irrelevant here, because it comes as part of a much deeper complexity. This is a great wine, at the summit of Champagne, a sublime, unforgettable experience. Imported by Moët Hennessy USA.