You’ve all heard how red wine, in moderation, is good for your health. Soon, though, you may be able to get the benefits of red wine even while teetotaling.
Chemists at Columbia University have figured out how to synthesize the polyphenols, or chemical compounds, derived from resveratrol, the molecule found in the skin of grapes that scientists think is the agent behind red wine’s heart-protecting abilities (for reasons no one is sure of, white wine just doesn’t have the same benefits). Researchers say the synthetic polyphenols could lead to developing medications that mimic the effects of resveratrol without the red wine (while I can’t imagine who has trouble consuming red wine, I hear this is a problem for some).
Resveratrol’s potential health benefits have been suggested as the reason behind the ‘French Paradox’ – the French population’s low incidence of heart disease despite a diet high in saturated fat. And recent studies at the University of Florida have found reservatrol to have “anti-aging, anti-carcinogenic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.”
“The main potential reason is that resveratrol is a super-powered anti-oxidant and it seems to kind of attack those free radicals, and free radicals are present in most diseases and aging,” said Heather Hausenblas, a University of Florida exercise researcher. “If we’re taking a look at where are you going to get it most in your diet, it’s found in the largest quantities in red wine. You can also find it in other things; obviously it’s going to come from the grapes because that’s from what red wine or any type of wine is made.”
The Florida study was conducted with humans; much of the resveratrol research so far has been conducted on animals. One thing about reservatrol I found particularly interesting was this 2008 study which found giving middle-aged mice small amounts of resveratrol in their diets could “mimic the heart-healthy effects of what is known as caloric restriction, diets with 20 to 30 percent fewer calories than a typical diet. (This) suggests that resveratrol and caloric restriction … may govern the same master genetic pathways related to aging.”
“Caloric restriction is highly effective in extending life in many species. If you provide species with less food, the regulated cellular stress response of this healthy habit actually makes them live longer,” said study author Christiaan Leeuwenburgh. “In this study, the effects of low doses of resveratrol (on genes) were comparable to caloric restriction, the hallmark for life extension.”
Man—cut calories by 20 to 30 percent or add a glass of red wine per day? I’ll take the wine, thank you. Or, maybe soon, the reservatrol supplement.