Drink (or not) to your health: Wine, tea and energy drinks

Published : September 12, 2014

women wine girls night out Red or white, wine is heart-healthy — but there's a catch.
Credit: Creatas

 

When it comes to our diets, we tend to focus on the foods we eat. But increasingly, scientists are looking at what we drink as having a significant impact on our well-being as well. We rounded up three recent studies that analyzed some of the most common beverages, with mixed results.

 

 

Wine

 

The heart-healthy benefits of wine have been used to justify having another glass at many a dinner party. But there’s a catch. The aptly named “In Vino Veritas” (“In Wine, Truth”) study found that wine only protects against cardiovascular disease by lowering cholesterol in people who exercise.

Though evidence for wine’s heart-boosting properties has been mounting for two decades, this is the first study that looked at its long-term effects on both types of cholesterol, which can foreshadow atherosclerosis (the buildup of plaque on the walls of arteries).

Professor Milos Taborsky of Palacky University in the Czech Republic found that red and white wines had the same effect: Both wines, when drunk regularly and in moderation, lowered levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and red wine drinkers had lower cholesterol overall.

But among people who exercised at least twice a week, theaddition of wine not only raised their good cholesterol (HDL),it decreased LDL and total cholesterol for both red and white wine drinkers.Cheers!

Tea

Brewed leaves just pulled ahead of brewed beans in the competition over which is better for you, tea or coffee.

A study of 131,000 French people aged 18 to 95 found that having a cuppa cut the risk of noncardiovascular death by 24 percent, based on blood pressure and overall health.

The research found that coffee drinkers had worse heart health, especially when it came to smokers (a whopping 57 percent of people who drank more than four cups per day smoked.) Among tea drinkers, fewer overall smoked, especially those who drank more than four cups daily (29 percent). Exercise rates were comparable between the groups. Men tended to drink much more coffee than women, who vastly preferred tea. Interestingly, most of the benefits of tea were found in current or ex-smokers, with little effect on nonsmokers.

Study author professor Nicolas Danchin summed it up by saying: “Tea has antioxidants, which may provide survival benefits. Tea drinkers also have healthier lifestyles. So does tea drinking reflect a particular [personal] profile, or is it tea, per se, that improves outcomes? Pending the answer to that question, I think that you could fairly honestly recommend tea drinking rather than coffee drinking, and even rather than not drinking anything at all.”

Energy drinks

A new study presented at the European Society of Cardiology congress has definitively linked energy drinks with heart problems.

The typical 8.4-ounce energy drink contains about two espressos’ worth of caffeine, which causes calcium to be released in cardiac tissue. This affects the heart’s ability to contract and use oxygen, according to professor Milou-Daniel Drici of France’s University of Nice.

Because the drinks are popular in clubs and during physical exercise, people tend to drink more than one at a time, increasing their risk of an adverse reaction, such as angina (chest pain due to poor blood flow to the heart) and even death.

Drici concluded that “the general public need to know that so-called ‘energy drinks’ have absolutely no place during or after physical exercise, as compared with other drinks designed for that purpose.”

 
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