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Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease.
Abstract : In most countries, high intake of saturated fat is positively related to high mortality from coronary heart disease (CHD). However, the situation in France is paradoxical in that there is high intake of saturated fat but low mortality from CHD. This paradox may be attributable in part to high wine consumption. Epidemiological studies indicate that consumption of alcohol at the level of intake in France (20-30 g per day) can reduce risk of CHD by at least 40%. Alcohol is believed to protect from CHD by preventing atherosclerosis through the action of high-density-lipoprotein cholesterol, but serum concentrations of this factor are no higher in France than in other countries. Re-examination of previous results suggests that, in the main, moderate alcohol intake does not prevent CHD through an effect on atherosclerosis, but rather through a haemostatic mechanism. Data from Caerphilly, Wales, show that platelet aggregation, which is related to CHD, is inhibited significantly by alcohol at levels of intake associated with reduced risk of CHD. Inhibition of platelet reactivity by wine (alcohol) may be one explanation for protection from CHD in France, since pilot studies have shown that platelet reactivity is lower in France than in Scotland.