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Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for your Heart?

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What is Resveratrol?

Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, an antibiotic produced by plants when under attack by pathogens such as bacteria or fungi. Resveratrol has caused such a stir in the medical community with tons of research surfacing about its ability to extend human lifespan.

Resveratrol as an Antioxidant

Resveratrol is an antioxidant that protects cells from the damage of free radicals. It potentially inhibits the growth of cancer cells. Animal and test-tube studies suggest that it may raise good cholesterol and protect the blood vessels from damage, prevent blood clots, and possibly reduce the risk of diabetes.

Grapes and Wine as Sources of Resveratrol

Resveratrol is commonly found in the skin of grapes. Grapes vary in skin thickness and cultivation. Vine grapes cultivated in cooler climates have higher levels of resveratrol compared to those that are grown in warmer climates. When it comes to there are several varieties with resveratrol. Wines such as Malbec, St. Laurent, Pinot Noir, and Petite Sirah are varieties that are known to contain resveratrol. Red wine contains more resveratrol compared to white wine as the grape skins remain on longer during the process of making red wine.

Dosage and Safety

Although, research on humans may be limited when it comes to the topic about resveratrol, we can somehow conclude that it is beneficial to our health. However, does drinking red wine suffice for our desire to have resveratrol in our body?

Resveratrol is not an essential nutrient. That means there is no required amount. Findings from animal studies suggest that a 500 mg dosage daily may be the needed amount to provide the health benefits expected. However, the amount of resveratrol in a liter of red wine does not even come close to that amount. True, it has resveratrol but it is far from enough. One liter of red wine contains less than 12.59 mg. You need to drink 40 liters of wine daily to get the desired dosage in order to achieve the benefits. Drinking wine daily can have some benefits to your cardiovascular health. However, drinking too much wine can be detrimental to your health. And if you do that just to get resveratrol, chances are you might get the benefits of resveratrol out of 40 liters of wine daily but have other internal functions impaired out of alcohol consumption. Too much alcohol carries health risks. Experts suggest drinking a glass of wine to reap benefits for coronary artery disease. Pregnant women are not recommended to drink wine.

Observational Study Conducted on Humans

Dr. Richard Semba, a professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, conducted a study that followed almost 800 men and women (65 years and older) who were part of the Aging in the Chianti Region from 1998 to 2009 in Italy. These people had diets rich in resveratrol. To check if resveratrol could lower the risk of cancer, heart disease, and death, the resveratrol levels were measured in the participants’ urine.

During the follow-up period, the researchers found that 34.3% died 27.2% developed heart disease and 4.6% developed cancer. They did not find a significant difference from those with the lowest and highest resveratrol. They also found no correlation between lower risk of heart disease and higher levels of resveratrol. The researchers also found that the lowest rates of heart disease were in people with the lowest levels of resveratrol.

The result of the study cast a doubt on whether this single substance can significantly improve heart health and hold off the aging process. "When it comes to diet, health and aging, things are not simple and probably do not boil down to one single substance, such as resveratrol. Perhaps it brings us back again to rather tried and true advice of diet -- Mediterranean-style -- and regular aerobic exercise for healthy aging," Semba said.

Wine and Health

Perhaps wine is healthy. After all, wine comes from grapes and they are natural sources of antioxidants. But just as Semba and as most health practitioners elaborated in various studies and research, we cannot attribute good health to just one substance. Eating grapes and drinking wine moderately can be healthy but if you pair it with unhealthy habits like smoking and overeating, you might still have a higher risk for coronary diseases compared to those who do not drink wine. A holistic approach, such as regularly taking healthy foods or a Mediterranean diet, proper supplementation of essential nutrients, regular aerobic exercise, and completely eliminating unhealthy habits may be what is necessary for overall well-being. And as you do that, you can add in a glass of wine or two as you say, “Cheers to good health!”


References:

WebMD. (2016). Resveratrol in Red Wine May Not Be Such a Health Booster, After All. [online] Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/news/20140512/resveratrol-in-red-wine-may-not-be-such-a-health-booster-after-all [Accessed 19 May 2016].

Mayoclinic.org. (2016). Red wine, antioxidants and resveratrol: Good for your heart? - Mayo Clinic. [online] Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281 [Accessed 19 May 2016].

Langton, N. (2015). How Much Red Wine Do You Need to Get Enough Resveratrol? | LIVESTRONG.COM. [online] LIVESTRONG.COM. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/411745-how-much-red-wine-do-you-need-to-get-enough-resveratrol/ [Accessed 19 May 2016].

Breton, F. (2016). Health benefits of wine º Antioxidants, resveratrol, and procyanidins in red wine. [online] Frenchscout.com. Available at: http://www.frenchscout.com/polyphenols [Accessed 19 May 2016].


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