Evidence of cardiovascular protection by moderate alcohol: role of nitric oxide

Free Radic Biol Med. 2005 Aug 15;39(4):540-8. doi: 10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2005.04.007.


Epidemiological evidence indicates that moderate alcohol consumption reduces the incidence of heart disease. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) is a key regulator of vascular homeostasis and myocardial functions through the controlled production of nitric oxide (*NO). These studies were conducted to determine if the apparent alcohol-associated cardioprotection is mediated, in part, through modulation of the eNOS protein and activity in the cardiovascular system. Rats were fed alcohol and eNOS protein and *NO production were evaluated at the end of 8 weeks. Myocardial and vascular function was assessed ex vivo in a subset of animals. Moderate alcohol improved postischemic myocardial systolic and diastolic function and attenuated the postischemic reduction in coronary vascular resistance. Moderate alcohol also enhanced maximum vascular relaxation by 26 +/- 0.2% and increased plasma *NO production concomitant with a greater than 2.5-fold increase in eNOS protein. Higher levels of alcohol impaired maximum vascular relaxation by 22 +/- 0.1%. These results suggest that moderate alcohol improves postischemic myocardial functions and increases *NO production by vascular endothelium. An increase in *NO may explain, at least in part, the cardioprotective benefits of moderate alcohol consumption.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Aorta, Thoracic / drug effects
  • Aorta, Thoracic / enzymology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Diet
  • Ethanol / administration & dosage*
  • Male
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reperfusion Injury / physiopathology
  • Vasodilation / drug effects


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Ethanol