December 04, 2008
Wine Boosts Blood Omega 3 Fatty Acids?

A possible explanation for the claimed heart health benefits from drinking wine:

Moderate alcohol intake is associated with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells. This is the major finding of the European study IMMIDIET that will be published in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, an official publication of the American Society for Nutrition and is already available on line ( ). The study suggests that wine does better than other alcoholic drinks. This effect could be ascribed to compounds other than alcohol itself, representing a key to understand the mechanism lying behind the heart protection observed in moderate wine drinkers.

Alcohol consumption seems to boost blood omega 3 fatty acids. It is not clear how.

"Several studies have shown that moderate alcohol consumption, including wine, is associated with protection against coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke - says Romina di Giuseppe, lead author of the study, from the Research Laboratories at Catholic University of Campobasso - Although the mechanisms are not completely defined, there was some evidence that alcohol intake might influence the metabolism of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, as omega-3. That is exactly what we found in our population study. People drinking moderate amounts of alcohol, one drink a day for women and two for men, had higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in plasma and red blood cells independently of their fish intake".

What I'd like to know: Can one boost plasma and red blood cell omega 3 as high by consuming more omega 3 as by drinking wine?

"Analysis carried out on different alcoholic beverages –argues Licia Iacoviello coordinator of the IMMIDIET study at Catholic University of Campobasso - showed that the association between alcohol and omega-3 fatty acids was present in both wine drinkers and beer or spirits drinkers. However, the association was stronger between wine drinking and omega-3 fatty acids levels. This suggests that components of wine other than alcohol is associated with omega-3 fatty acids concentration. We may guess this effect can be ascribed to polyphenols".

If polyphenols cause this effect it should be possible to cause this same effect by eating cranberries or blueberries or some other polyphenol source. Anyone aware of any studies showing an omega 3 boost from consuming high polyphenol foods?

Share |      Randall Parker, 2008 December 04 11:24 PM  Aging Diet Heart Studies

Mthson said at December 5, 2008 1:44 AM:

Do you think it's ideal to spread one's daily omega-3 intake across several meals, instead of all at once? Perhaps that would provide better absorption and more consistent levels in the blood?

Dan said at December 5, 2008 6:31 AM:

Good Article,
Any article that suggests drinking wine to increase your health is always well accepted. Omega 3 is so good for you and your health that if wine can help giddy up. Omega 3 has been connected to increasing your health in so many different ways. So increase your omega 3 intake and have a couple of glasses of wine and be healthy and happy. To Learn More About Omega 3 -> Krill Oil

David L. Kern said at December 5, 2008 9:19 AM:

> Anyone aware of any studies showing an omega 3 boost from consuming high polyphenol foods?

Randall, I haven't seen any studies that address this question directly. How polyphenols interact with n-3 fatty acids is pretty new territory. If we broaden the question to the effect of polyphenols on lipids, it's clear that they can prevent esterification and peroxidation. It makes send that polyphenols could boost the activity of omega 3 fatty acids by preventing their peroxidation.

I did come across a fascinating study out of London a few weeks ago looking at sickle cell disease. In previous studies, these researchers has found that sickle cell patients had reduced EPA and DHA in red cells, platelets, and mononuclear cells, but that this difference was not because of reduced omega 3 intake. Something else besides dietary deficiency was causing lower cell levels of cellular n-3 fatty acids in these patients. The study investigated, and concluded, that reduced antioxidant status was responsible for lower cell levels of n-3. "These findings suggest that the lower levels of membrane EPA and DHA in blood cells of the HbSS patients could be due to peroxidation resulting from a compromised antioxidant competence."

Since cell membrane function and stability is a primary mechanism of n-3 fatty acids, and polyphenols are known to directly and indirectly prevent peroxidation of fats, and antioxidant status affects cell membrane levels of n-3 fatty acids in humans, and polyphenols are clearly superior dietary antioxidants to those studied in the London paper (beta-carotene, tocopherol), it makes sense that polyphenols could act to protect n-3 fatty acids in the cell membrane, thus "boosting" their activity.

Perhaps a nice red wine with your fish instead sir?

Randall Parker said at December 6, 2008 9:06 PM:


I am surprised at the idea that the fatty acids could get oxidized so quickly that their concentration could be substantially lowered as a result. I am not saying that report is incorrect. But I wouldn't have expected the percentage of them oxidized would be so high as to lower their concentrations.

Okay, sickle cell is a special case. Can something less severe than that disease cause that effect? If lipid peroxidation causes lipid loss on a substantial scale we ought to be able to see this effect by use of sources of oxidative stress on lab rats and mice.

In any case, getting more high polyphenol foods in one's diet continues to be a good idea.

Randall Parker said at September 16, 2011 6:34 PM:


Grapes and grape juice will have the same polyphenol compounds. So they'll likely deliver part of the benefit.

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