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Red & White GrapesThis time of year many of us are looking for a healthier start and ways to make better choices.

And we often hear about the heart-healthy benefits of alcohol, but also the disadvantages.

A recent news release offered some insightful information on the debate. So what is the truth behind alcohol use and your heart? The answer, in short, is moderation.

“The kind of alcohol you drink matters too,” says cardiovascular, thoracic and vascular surgeon Jonathan Fong of the Venice-Ocala Heart Institute in Venice, Fla.

“The possible heart benefits of alcohol primarily have to do with its effect on atherosclerosis,” explained Dr. Fong in the release. “This condition occurs when cholesterol deposits build up in the arteries, potentially leading to a heart attack. However, alcohol – in moderation – may decrease the chances of developing this disease.”

Red wine has been the focal point of many studies regarding alcohol and heart health. It has been shown to offer the same benefits as other forms of alcohol, but it does have one additional ingredient that may give it a slight advantage over other alcohols. This component, called resveratrol, is an antioxidant that helps protect the lining of the heart’s blood vessels and comes from the grape skins used to make the wine. Because red wine is fermented with these skins longer than white wine, red wine contains more of this healthy ingredient. But white wine lovers need not switch to red just yet. New research suggests the pulp of the grapes used can be just as heart-healthy as the skin.

“Healthy ‘doses’ of alcohol are small ones and only beneficial for some – not all – people,” says Fong. “And these amounts differ between men and women.”

According to the American Heart Association, moderate drinking for healthy men means no more than two servings per day, and for healthy women, no more than one glass a day. One approved serving of alcohol consists of:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 4 ounces of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor
  • 1 ounce of 100-proof liquor

So, while alcohol has been shown to have some heart healthy benefits, before enjoying a few drinks in honor of our body’s most important muscle, remember that moderation is key.