LONDON — If you're a red wine lover, it's possibly the finest Christmas present imaginable. With impeccable timing, a team of researchers from the William Harvey Research Institute in London have announced a major breakthrough in the puzzle over why certain types of the popular tipple appear to prevent heart disease.

The findings, published in 20/27 December Nature, by Roger Corder and colleagues at the Barts and London School of Medicine, Queen Mary, University of London, UK, may provide vital clues to explain the so-called French paradox — the fact that heart disease among French men and other Mediterranean populations is lower than in the UK, despite relatively high consumption of saturated fats.

The beneficial effects of alcohol on heart disease have been a focus of heated debate within the scientific community in recent years. Although several studies have suggested moderate consumption can reduce the risks, it has...

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