Red wine drinkers have been toasting to better health and longer life with all of the news pieces on the miracle that is resveratrol – a component of red grape skin and some other fruits.
Let’s sift through the claims and hype and see where the dust settles and if it will save you from plastic surgery…..It was hard to ignore the headlines a couple of years ago. Newswires were replete with suggestions that resveratrol could boost health and lengthen life. Read beyond the headlines a bit though and you realize that this is only good news if you are a middle aged, overweight mouse. Still, the results were dramatic – mice given resveratrol became much healthier and lived about 25% longer than the mice who didn’t get resveratrol (Nature, 2006).
Sounds impressive, but there are some eensy, weensie details that we need to consider before we run to the liquor store or supplement shops.
- The longer lived mice received the equivalent of 20 bottles of wine/day worth of resveratrol.
- Last year the researchers who published the 2006 study conducted another study on normal weight, middle aged mice that showed no difference in longevity (Cell Metabolism, 2008). Curiously this study did not make any headlines. It should be noted, however that there were positive health differences in the resveratrol group.
- No human trials to date have been conducted on the effects of resveratrol and aging. There are 2 reasons for this, according to Bharar Aggarwal, a University of Texas researcher.
1. Cost – it would be very expensive to provide resveratrol to human subjects.
2. Companies that control the supply of resveratrol aren’t making it available to researchers because they are looking to haul in big bucks by turning into a drug.
- The potential impact on resveratrol is still up in the air. There will be a study conducted by the National Institute on Aging – but the results won’t be available for a couple of years.
- Whenever we look at studies on compound we must consider the “in vivo vs. in vitro” (test tube vs. body) question. The human body is complex and dynamic and will not often produce the same results as test tubes will.
Stay focused on the bigger picture of health. To quote Marion Nestle, when we take the nutrient out of the context of the food, we take the food out of the context of the diet and the diet out of the context of the lifestyle. Focus on whole foods, not the nutrients. Eat veggies, fruits and drink red wine in moderation – doing these things will likely help prolong your life and will definitely improve your health.