I love red wine; I find myself toasting many evenings with a glass of my favorite merlot. The health benefits associated with wine have been documented up and down the internet a great many times; which only serves to bolster my confidence in its healing properties. But in a brief and rather compelling study in the current issue of the highly regarded scientific journal, Cell Metabolism, found that resveratrol, the active ingredient in red wine, mimicked exercise and diet in mice.
The study prescribed eleven obese but otherwise “healthy” men to thirty days of placebo and thirty days of 150 mg of resveratrol daily in random order. The study was conducted in a double-blinded fashion; meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking what and when. The fundamental study suggested based on prior work in animals, that resveratrol supplementation would mimic the effects of calorie restriction. Having shown early promise in mice, resveratrol has made the leap to men (with, presumably and hopefully, the same implications for women).
The restriction of calories has long been the workhorse for extending lifespan; a studies in a number of species show clear improvements in longevity with nutritionally sound, but calorically restricted diet (cutting calories by 30 percent is widely considered a “normal” level for maintenance of healthy weight). There hasn’t been any sort of human’s study, for obvious reasons, as it would take longer than the researcher’s lifespan to find out. Also, with human subjects the control factor is dramatically reduced- we all know how hard dieting can be; so finding a subject that would adhere to a restricted calorie diet to the letter could be quite challenging
This is where resveratrol comes in.
Resveratrol is a compound concentrated in grape skin, which is the foundation of all red wine. Early studies have demonstrated it to function as a potent antioxidant. That in and of itself is a health benefit; but the history of isolated antioxidant supplements is often disappointing. But resveratrol is not just an antioxidant; this antioxidant influences mitochondrial function and energy metabolism; and the most important factor is that resveratrol is a gene modifier. It influences the activity of a gene complex called SIRT1, which influences a wide array of metabolic activity; and is considered a regulator of the “health span”. It is also the gene complex influenced by calorie restriction.
In this study, the message was clear, daily dosing of resveratrol for a month mimicked most effects of calorie restriction, improving energy metabolism in muscle, improving insulin sensitivity, lowering blood pressure, and, supposedly, enhancing fitness. No adverse effects of taking resveratrol were documented.
But could it be too soon to start singing the praises of resveratrol?
As with any study, adverse effects might show up down the line. How many diet miracles, have later been shown to cause negative health repercussions? Too many to count. Calorie restriction, for instance, is associated with reduced fertility, and reduced libido; and as a female who desires to reproduce, potentially putting my libido and fertility in jeopardy is far too great of a risk for me. Although this study is still in its infancy, this news is promising and exciting; but time will tell if reseveratrol can extend our lives. It may be slightly premature to call this a wonder drug; so for now I’ll stick with my one glass of red wine a night.