By Alane Stieglitz, ND, CNC
Red Wine Benefits
We have all heard the health benefits of a glass of red wine touted over the years, and the absolute powerhouse is an antioxidant called resveratrol. Resveratrol was first mentioned in an article published in 1939 by Japanese researcher Michio Takoaka . According to varying accounts, experiments on the exotic, but poisonous plant Veratrum grandiflorum allowed researchers to isolate resveratrol chemically. Later in 1963, the molecule was isolated from Polygonum cupsidatum (Japanese knotweed), a common source for traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine. Resveratrol has since been identified in more than 70 different plant species such as grapevines, legumes, and pines (2). Its synthesis increased in response to stressors such as injury, ultraviolet radiation, and fungal infections.
Red wine benefits the heart and health by having resveratrol in it. Other dietary sources of resveratrol include chocolate, peanuts, soybeans, pomegranates, and, of course, red grapes, particularly the grape’s skin. Interestingly, since grape skins are not fermented during the production of white wine, only red wine contains resveratrol and is indeed the richest source of the substance in most human diets (approximately 0.5-1.0 mg per glass of red wine).
There was scant scientific interest in resveratrol until 1992. French scientists Serge Renaud and Michel de Lorgeril concluded from epidemiological data that, despite a diet rich in saturated fat and other poor lifestyle habits (such as a high smoking rate), the French had a low incidence of cardiovascular problems. The duo coined this seemingly contradictory observation the “French Paradox.” They hypothesized one primary cardioprotective factor responsible was the moderate consumption of red wine in the French diet. Red wine benefits are emphasized in this study.
Despite the numerous biologically active components potentially contributing to red wine benefits, especially the heart, the primary target of intense investigations has focused on resveratrol.
A decade after the French Paradox was proposed, resveratrol made another significant impact on the scientific community. In 2003, a pioneering study found that resveratrol extended the lifespan of yeast by 70 percent through a mechanism involving activation of the protein SIRT1 (Sirtuin 1) (4). Subsequent studies found similar life-extending effects in other organisms such as worms, flies, and some fish.
However, evidence of lifespan extension in higher mammalian species, such as rats, has yielded more equivocal results, although even in many of those studies, resveratrol offered metabolic and cardiovascular benefits.
Despite the numerous biologically active components potentially contributing to red wine benefits, the primary target of intense investigations has focused on resveratrol.
If drinking a glass of wine a day is not up your alley, we have several products we recommend equivalent to bottles of red wine with amounts of resveratrol. The most important thing is to make sure your antioxidant levels, plus other nutrients, are high enough in your body. Low antioxidants can lead to sickness and disease in the heart and in the body.
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Takaoka M. Resveratrol, a new phenolic compound, from Veratrum grandiflorum. Nippon Kagaku Kaishi 1939;60:1090–100 (in Japanese).
Fremond L. Biological effecs of resveratrol. Life Sci 2000;66:663-73.
Renaud S, de Lorgeril M. Wine, alcohol, platelets, and the French paradox for coronary heart disease. Lancet 1992;339:1523-6.
Howitz KT, Bitterman KJ, Cohen HY et al. Small molecule activators of sirtuins extend Saccharomyces cerevisiae lifespan. Nature 2003;425:191-6.
Timmers S, Auwerx J, Schrauwen P. The journey of resveratrol from yeast to human. Aging (Albany NY) 2012;4:146-58.
Jaur JA, Pearson KJ, Price NL et al. Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Nature 2006;444:337-42.