Hi Guys, I am back.
As promised, I am following up on my previous article with a series reviewing the claims of many superfoods. We will try to list out all claims and check which ones stick and which fail in face of scientific evidence.
Drink your way to a good health
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do just that?
The claimed benefits of Red Wine include an ability to improve cholesterol, fight free radical damage, help manage diabetes, fight obesity and prevent cognitive decline, improve skin ageing, prevent acne, fight Alzheimer’s, prevent cancer, better sex life, and the list goes on and on. Health benefits of Red Wine were an accepted fact, so why the need to review it again?
When drinking, wouldn’t you like to believe that you are doing the right thing for your health?
Well, that’s exactly why the subject has everyone’s attention, and a lot of misrepresented facts are floating in the media.
Are health benefits of Red Wine real?
The lead author of the original study that first reported the possible Cardiac benefits of drinking 2 glasses of red wine daily, recently mentioned in an interview that his study results were oversimplified and at times misinterpreted by the media.
The subject deserves a revisit as there are new contradictory reports in the media. Apparently, Wine is bad again. Researchers at Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria in Canada, found little evidence of benefit from drinking moderate amounts of wine. A new study published in The Lancer by Dr Angela Wood of Cambridge University found a correlation between higher wine consumption and reduction in life expectancy. Even this study was sensationalized by the media and reported as “A glass of wine will shave off years of your life”.
Clearly, the news reporters have limited understanding of these scientific papers and are taking leaps of faith or flights of fancy when extrapolating the findings of these studies
So our task is cut out, review the benefits of Wine. In fact, the list is so long that, we will focus only on the key claims.
What Makes Red Wine Healthy?
Red wine contains a complex and concentrated mixture of phytochemicals called polyphenols which are also found in other alcoholic beverages but in a lesser quantity.
The key polyphenols in red wine which is credited with most of its health benefits is called Resveratrol. The highest concentration of Resveratrol is found in the skin of the grapes.
Red Wine spends more time in contact with the grape skins than white wine, because of which it has almost 10 times higher resveratrol concentrations.
Resveratrol – its dietary and natural sources
Resveratrol is one of the most powerful antioxidants found in nature. It is highly potent in neutralizing free radicals and protecting the body against oxidative stress.
The skins of grapes contain the high levels of resveratrol. Besides grapes and wine, it is also found in foods such as peanuts, pistachios, blueberries, cranberries, and even cocoa and dark chocolate.
Is media encouraging a wine drinking behaviour?
Yes, it surely feels so.
When researching for this article, it was quite surprising that even respected and mainstream news channels focus only on the wine drinking part for health benefits, while sidelining other facts and role of active ingredients like Resveratrol. It almost felt as if reporters were trying to encourage drinking or probably trying to reinforce their own belief that drinking wine was healthy.
Articles and news reports look poorly researched, the writers were not subject experts and there was an undertone of glamourizing wine drinking. It is absolutely preposterous when you have news that headlines “Drinking 2 glasses of wine every day more likely to extend your life beyond 90, than exercise”. No doctor or researcher in their right mind will recommend wine drinking over exercise for increasing longevity.
It is irresponsible to glamorize drinking or make it socially more acceptable when the world already has an estimated 200 million alcoholics trying hard to stay sober and problems of underage drinking and deaths due to drunk driving on the rise.
How much Red Wine do you need to drink to protect your heart?
Well, here is the real catch.
If you are healthy, to begin with, then 2 glasses of red wine a day will help you to maintain your cardiovascular health while reducing your risk of future cardiovascular diseases. If you belong to a higher risk category, like having high cholesterol, blood pressure or suffer from elevated blood sugar levels, then 2 glasses of red wine may not do you much good.
A litre of Red Wine is estimated to have around 12mg of Resveratrol. The lowest Resveratrol doses used in human studies were 10mg whereas most studies reporting measurable health benefits used between 250mg to 500mg resveratrol a day,
So there you have it. For marginal health benefits, you will need to consume 1 litre of red wine a day. But, in order to get therapeutic (medicine like) benefits from Red Wine, you will need to consume between 20 to 40 litres in a day. Sounds enticing, but no doctor will recommend more than 2 glasses a day, even for therapeutic reasons.
Does that mean Wine is out for me?
If you like your wine, you can certainly continue to enjoy your 2 glasses a day – responsibly. It is likely to help you in the long run by maintaining your cardiovascular health. But, if you have health conditions and are expecting much more from your Wine, it may be prudent to shift to Resveratrol supplements. They have been tested in multiple studies and have been around for some time for us to know that they are quite safe.
Dr David Sinclair is one of the most respected scientists in the world in the field of “anti-ageing” and one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for the year 2014. He was one of the first researchers on Resveratrol and has published many original research papers on Resveratrol’s anti ageing properties.
Sinclair says “The dose of Resveratrol administered in successful experiments is always much higher than you’d normally consume in a daily diet. You would need to drink a hundred to a thousand glasses of red wine to equal the doses that improve health in mice,”
Dr Sinclair is a staunch supporter of Resveratrol, but he gets his daily dose not from wine, but in the form of Supplements.
Review of Resveratrol Health Benefits
Benefits of Resveratrol in Heart Disease
Resveratrol is probably the most researched phytonutrient for cardiovascular health. The primary mechanism through which Resveratrol benefits cardiovascular system is by lowering lipid peroxidation and increasing plasma antioxidant capacity. Resveratrol can reduce cholesterol, blood pressure and platelet aggregation and their associated risks of undesirable cardiovascular events. Resveratrol also protects from cardiovascular diseases by preventing structural changes in the heart due to hypertension, hardening and narrowing of blood vessels.improvement. Resveratrol plays a cardioprotective role via multiple actions. The evidence for cardio-protective effects of Resveratrol is strong.
Benefits of Resveratrol in Cancer
A number of animal trials were done to assess the effects of Resveratrol in different types of cancers. Resveratrol was found to reduce cancer risk in breast, colon, skin, prostate, pancreas and many other organs. Considering similarities in the origin, pathogenesis, and progression of carcinomas, the tumour suppressing the activity of resveratrol suggests the targeting of similar intracellular oncogenic molecular patterns by this phenolic phytochemical.
A point to note is that when the dose used in animal studies are converted to equivalent human dose, the therapeutic dose of resveratrol becomes high. But, when a high dose of 5 gm/ day was given to human cancer patients, it caused nausea, diarrhoea, and nephrotoxicity.
Another trial done in breast cancer patients reached the conclusion that Resveratrol in low doses promoted breast cancer.
Even though there is overwhelming animal data to support Resveratrol’s anti-cancer properties, inconsistent data from human trials cannot be overlooked. Hence we cannot conclusively promote anti-cancer benefits of Resveratrol.
Benefits of Resveratrol in Glucose Metabolism
This one is quite non-controversial. There are enough human studies to suggest that Resveratrol supplementation significantly improves glycemic control in patients with impaired glucose tolerance.
Resveratrol was effective in reducing glycosylated haemoglobin (HbA1c) levels, postprandial glucose levels, and postprandial insulin by approximately 18%.
Also, it is noteworthy that hypoglycemia, one of the most common side effects associated with antidiabetic drugs, has not been reported with resveratrol in any animal or human studies.
In conclusion, Resveratrol can be quite safe and effective for individuals with diabetes or impaired insulin sensitivity.
Benefits of Resveratrol in Central Nervous System Diseases
A study carried out on healthy adults found that a single dose (250 mg) of trans-resveratrol can increase the cerebral blood flow during cognitive tasks.
There is a growing evidence that resveratrol has beneficial effects in several neurodegenerative diseases. These effects are mostly attributed to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect.
Many clinical trials have been conducted to investigate the role of Resveratrol in disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Though initial results are promising, more large-scale human trials are needed to conclusively state that Resveratrol protects against CNS diseases.
Benefits of Resveratrol in Bone Health
Benefits of Resveratrol in Fertility
Human studies on fertility are not available, but in animal studies Resveratrol protected against an age-related decline in fertility in females by increasing ovarian lifespan. In male rats, it was able to counteract diabetes-induced decreases in reproductive organ weights, sperm count, and motility, thereby promising a role in improving the fertility of diabetic men.
Resveratrol helps in Erectile Dysfunction by boosting the production of eNOS which diabetes the penile blood vessels allowing higher blood flow. Animal trials have proven that Resveratrol can reverse diabetes-related erectile dysfunction. The same may also hold true for men, but studies are still pending.
Benefits of Resveratrol in Ageing
I have kept the big one for last.
Yes, Resveratrol is the best known for its lifespan increasing properties. There is a long list of animal studies that prove a significant increase in the lifespan of smaller mammals whose diets were supplemented with Resveratrol.
There have been many warnings from a diverse group of researchers, to not rely on the results of animal studies especially since observational studies in a human population do not support similar results. But, one of the biggest drawbacks of observational studies are that they have a high degree of researcher bias and depend on their interpretation. Another big disadvantage is that observational studies see the effect and try to interpret the cause. A clinical trial would rather start with a cause and then measure its effect compared to placebo to measure the significance of the results.
Since human observational studies are not enough and a long-term study to measure the lifespan-enhancing quality of Resveratrol will have no endpoints (subjects may live for decades after the start of the trial), it will be fair to draw our own conclusions from the available data.
We may never know if Resveratrol can increase lifespan, but conclusive proof of free radical scavenging, lipid-lowering, glucose reducing, blood pressure regulating and cardioprotective benefits of Resveratrol by itself may be enough to ensure a longer and healthier life even in the absence of any, yet undiscovered lifespan enhancing mechanisms.
In healthy individuals, 2 glasses of Red Wine a day may help keep the heart safe
Individuals seeking therapeutic benefits will need to consume 20-40 litres of wine a day
Media has willingly misrepresented facts, encouraging wine consumption
Resveratrol (Red Wine extract) supplements may be the only feasible way to consume therapeutically relevant doses every day.
Resveratrol has many proven life-enhancing qualities like free radical scavenging, lipid-lowering, glucose reducing, blood pressure regulating and cardioprotection
Enjoy your daily dose of Red Wine, but for significant health benefits, go for good quality Resveratrol supplements.
Written by Dave Keller – Biochemist by profession, part-time blogger, full-time adventurer.
Keywords: Superfoods, Resveratrol, resveratrol benefits, Phytonutrients, Resveratrol in ageing, all headers