American Heart Association president Donna Arnett said the research is interesting because it looks at a specific type of drinking.
"This is that in-between phase of solidly moderate drinking. So in that way it offers something new," said Arnett, who is also an epidemiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
While the research holds promise, Arnett said she is concerned about the methodology. She noted, "They didn't have a 'wash-out' period between the interventions and that's important because it lets people stabilize and return to their blood pressure value before the intervention. It is possible that there is a carryover effect from one of the drinking periods to the next. That had me concerned from a study-design perspective."
Hayes said it would be intriguing to study other groups: a mixed-sex group, a younger group including patients with lower risk factors and women in perimenopause.
"High blood pressure is an important issue in women. And we now know there are sex differences in responses to alcohol intake," Hayes said.
The authors of an editorial that accompanies the study said there is growing evidence that the chemicals in red wine confer health benefits beyond alcohol, and the new research adds to it.
"However, numerous issues need to be resolved in order to clearly assess the preventive or therapeutic potential of red wine constituents," wrote Huige Li and Ulrich Forstermann, with the department of pharmacology at Johannes Gutenberg University Medical Center in Mainz, Germany.
Chiva-Blanch noted that while this study showed de-alcoholized red wine seems to have "exclusive" effects in blood pressure, "when talking about other cardiovascular risk factors such as low HDL cholesterol, de-alcoholized red wine has no effects."
She also pointed out that other research shows red wine consumption has protective effects in atherosclerosis and cholesterol.
Would people be willing to swap their cabernets and Chiantis for an alcohol-free version, if the health benefits were confirmed?
Mayo Clinic's Hayes isn't sure. She said nonalcoholic red wine lacks the body and fullness of real red wine.
"People drink for other reasons that are complex and personal -- whether it's how you feel or it's about the complex taste. If we found that drinking de-alcoholized red wine was truly therapeutic, that it actually lowered blood pressure, I think people would probably take it as medicine," Hayes said.
Chiva-Blanch said, "It depends on the health awareness of the population. People who care about their health would be willing to switch to nonalcoholic drinks, while others would not."
Visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more about alcohol and public health.
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