The positive health effects derived from moderate wine consumption are pleiotropic. They appear as improvements in cardiovascular risk factors such as plasma lipids, haemostatic mechanisms, endothelial function and antioxidant defences. The active principles would be ethanol and mainly polyphenols. Results from our and other laboratories support the unifying hypothesis that the improvements in risk factors after red wine consumption are mediated by endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). Many genes are involved, but the participation of eNOS would be a constant feature.
The metabolic syndrome is a cluster of metabolic risk factors associated with high risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). The National Cholesterol Education Programmmes Adult Treatment Panel III (NCEPATP III) clinical definition of the metabolic syndrome requires the presence of at least three risk factors, from among abdominal obesity, high plasma triacylglycerols, low plasma HDL, high blood pressure and high fasting plasma glucose. The molecular mechanisms responsible for the metabolic syndrome are not known. Since metabolic syndrome apparently affects 10–30% of the population in the world, research on its pathogenesis and control is needed.
The recent finding that eNOS knockout mice present a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors comparable to those of the metabolic syndrome suggests that defects in eNOS function may cause human metabolic syndrome. These mice are hypertensive, insulin resistant and dyslipidemic. Further support for a pathogenic role of eNOS comes from the finding in humans that eNOS polymorphisms associate with insulin resistance and diabetes, with hypertension, with inflammatory and oxidative stress markers and with albuminuria. So, the data sustain the hypothesis that eNOS enhancement should reduce metabolic syndrome incidence and its consequences. Therefore red wine, since it enhances eNOS function, should be considered as a potential tool for the control of metabolic syndrome. This hypothesis is supported by epidemiological observations and needs experimental validation in human intervention studies. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.