Red wine is good for you – fact or fantasy?

Written by Catherine Saxelby on Tuesday, 17 June 2014.
Tagged: alcohol, antioxidants, healthy eating

Red wine is good for you – fact or fantasy?

 New research has thrown the “red wine is the reason for the French Paradox” and the “red wine is good for you” theories into doubt. A research paper published in the JAMA Internal Medicine reported on a study of older adults in the Chianti region of Italy (famous for its red wine) and whether or not the resveratrol, the polyphenol found in the red wine they consume, affected their longevity and health.

The research paper titled Resveratrol Levels and All-Cause Mortality in Older Community-Dwelling Adults by Richard D. Semba et al was published in May 2014. It measured the resveratrol levels of the participants by testing for the breakdown products in urine samples. It then determined whether differing health outcomes were found in people with differing levels of these resveratrol metabolites.

What is resveratrol?

Resveratrol, is a polyphenol that is not only found in grapes and consequently in red wine, but also in chocolate, blueberries, peanuts and soy. It is said to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects in humans. A paper published in Epigenetics found that there was a correlation between resveratrol and longevity in yeasts and fruit flies but that more studies were needed in humans.

The JAMA Internal Medicine study set out to “determine whether resveratrol levels achieved with diet are associated with inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and mortality in humans”.

What the research found

They found that resveratrol levels were not significantly linked to the levels of serum C-reactive Protein (an inflammatory marker), IL-6, IL-1β (interleukins, chemicals which regulate the immune response), TNF (tumour necrosis factor, a substance that can cause cell death and that has been implicated in the regression of tumours) and “prevalent or incident cardiovascular disease, or cancer.”

In other words: “Resveratrol levels achieved with a Western diet did not have a substantial influence on health status and mortality risk of the population in this study.”

The take home message?

This is a small study and it did only measure the participants’ resveratrol levels on the one occasion so the findings may be open to discussion. However, for me it just highlights the importance of my moderation/balanced diet mantra.

If you want to increase your chances of living a long and healthy life you need to exercise and eat a healthy diet (i.e. a balanced diet). One that has lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, dairy and small amounts of good quality fats and little added sugar.

Catherine Saxelby

About the Author

Catherine Saxelby knows nutrition! She is an accredited nutritionist, food commentator, blogger and award-winning author. Her latest book Catherine Saxelby's Food and Nutrition Companion answers all those tricky questions on healthy eating, diets and supplements. It draws together a lifetime of advice and gives you all you need to know to eat right! It's a complete A to Z. A handy desk go-to reference.