Packs Red Wine with Health
by: Steve P Smith
Resveratrol has recently
attracted great interest in connection with the so-called “French Paradox”
which has long puzzled medical science. As a polyphenol type flavonoid it is in
any case a very useful anti-oxidant, but many now believe it also to be the
explanation of the relatively low rates of cardiovascular disease enjoyed in France despite
a national diet traditionally rich in cholesterol and saturated fat. The
French, of course, are also known as high per capita consumers of alcohol,
particularly in the form of red wine.
Recent research appears to have established that the consumption of alcohol in
moderation offers significant protection for the cardiovascular system, and may
even reduce the incidence of related diseases by as much as 30%. There is good
evidence, however, that the resveratrol which is almost unique to red wine may
provide benefits which go far beyond those which can be explained by the
effects of the alcohol alone
This is not surprising in so far as fat-soluble anti-oxidants are known to be
important protectors of the circulatory system against damaging attack from
free radicals, and the resveratrol and other polyphenols found in red wine are
likely to be highly beneficial in this context. Laboratory research, moreover,
has revealed significant anti-inflammatory and blood anti-coagulant effects
arising from the action of resveratrol.
But there’s still more to resveratrol than this. It’s known that some
potentially harmful compounds in the body do not become carcinogenic unless and
until they are metabolized by particular enzymes. Resveratrol has been shown in
some laboratory research to help inhibit the activity of these enzymes and it
seems possible that resveratrol may therefore have some protective effect
against certain cancers.
Resveratrol has also been shown in the laboratory to slow the proliferation of
DNA damaged cells, which have the potential to become cancerous, and to allow
time for the repair or removal of DNA damaged cells before rapid and harmful
proliferation can occur. Invasive cancer tumors depend on specialized enzymes
to allow them to take over healthy tissue and also need to establish their own
blood supply if they are to develop. Resveratrol has been found in the
laboratory to have inhibiting effects on both these processes, perhaps
principally because of its anti-inflammatory qualities.
Orthodox opinion, however, currently maintains that more large scale trials are
required outside the laboratory before any protective effects of resveratrol
against cancer can be definitively established.
But the anti-inflammatory properties of resveratrol may also have a significant
protective effect in the battle against atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries),
a significant precursor of serious cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol has also
been shown to play an important role in preventing the formation of the blood
clots which if they obstruct a coronary or cerebral artery may lead to a heart
attack or stroke, two of the leading causes of premature death or disability in
the affluent Western world.
And amazingly enough it appears that resveratrol may also have a more direct
effect in terms of increasing longevity. A good deal of research has shown that
reduced calorie intake may increase lifespan, including those of certain
mammalian species, apparently by increasing the activity of specific enzymes.
Resveratrol has also been shown to stimulate these enzymes and to enhance the
life spans of worms and fruit flies. It is not known whether these findings
would be replicated in higher life forms, humans included, but there seems no
logical reason why they should not.
To obtain a significant intake of this potentially highly beneficial compound
from wine you need to concentrate on red wine, because only this is produced by
a pulp fermentation including the red or black grape skins where most of the
resveratrol is found. As a rule of thumb, the richer and darker the color of
the wine, the longer the pulp fermentation will have lasted, and the more
resveratrol and other polyphenols the wine will contain. Generally speaking it
is those produced in the sunnier latitudes which will have the highest
No toxicity issues have been reported from the intake of resveratrol, as such,
although problems of course may arise if red wine is used to excess to achieve
a desired high intake. Supplements of resveratrol providing up to 50 mg are now
readily available, however; whilst moderate consumption of alcohol is now
generally recognized as potential boon to health, and to be particularly
protective of the cardiovascular system. So there seems to be every reason to
continue to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine of an evening. And your enjoyment
can only be increased by the awareness that the resveratrol it contains may
well be doing your health a power of good.