Patients often ask me if they should start drinking red wine. I’m really not surprised— reports touting red wine’s anti-aging benefits are all over the news. What is it about red wine that makes it so healthy? It is a source of a potent compound called resveratrol.
Interest in resveratrol exploded in 2003, when research from a team of Harvard scientists reported that it was able to increase the lifespan of yeast cells. According to their data, resveratrol activates a gene called sirtuin1, which is also activated during calorie restriction. Other studies of resveratrol have reported anti-cancer effects, anti-inflammatory effects, anti-diabetes potential, energy endurance enhancement, and protection against Alzheimer’s.
Now, researchers are uncovering even more of resveratrol’s health secrets. According to two new studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this powerful polyphenol may influence both blood vessel function and the function of fat cells.
The studies report that red wine has a direct effect on the health of the cells lining blood vessels, while resveratrol may also influence the function of fat cells and reduce the risk of developing conditions related to obesity. While these findings are preliminary, they could prove quite promising for anyone with metabolic issues.
In the first study, researchers from the Israel Institute of Technology report that red wine may boost heart health by positively affecting the way the cells talk to each other in the lining of blood vessels. It also triggers the release of nitric oxide, which plays a key role in relaxation of blood vessels (vasodilation). Earlier research shows that resveratrol also helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and prevents blood platelets from clumping together inside blood vessels. Taken together, this strongly suggests that that resveratrol can significantly improve vascular health and may even play a role in preventing atherosclerosis.
In the second study, scientists from the University of Ulm in Germany report that fat production in the cells was inhibited by exposure to resveratrol. As in earlier studies, the researchers found that this fat-inhibiting action was due to resveratrol’s impact on the sirtuin1 gene. While this could have huge potential for preventing and treating obesity-associated endocrine, metabolic adverse effects and even possibly extending your lifespan, it’s probably not going to help you get back into your size six jeans.
So should you start sipping a glass of red wine with dinner? If it’s something you enjoy, feel free to have one—just one—glass of merlot or pinot noir with your meal. But if you want to reap all the benefits resveratrol has to offer, it’s best to take it in supplemental form.
What’s the difference? One ounce of red wine averages around 90 mcg. of resveratrol. Taking a resveratrol supplement provides 20 mg. or more of the polyphenol in each capsule. This is at least 220 times the amount of resveratrol found in one fluid ounce of red wine. Just make sure to use a standardized supplement to ensure potency.
Another benefit? While drinking too much red wine has obvious drawbacks, supplemental resveratrol is extremely safe and shouldn’t interfere with any medications you may be taking. So, whether you’re looking to improve your survival odds or simply avoid chronic disease, chances are that resveratrol can help.
Fischer-Posovszky P. Resveratrol regulates human adipocyte number and function in a Sirt1-dependent manner. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 92:5-15.
Guarente L. Calorie restriction—the SIR2 connection. Cell. 2005;120:473-482.
Hamed S. Red wine consumption improves in vitro migration of endothelial progenitor cells in young, healthy individuals. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2010; 92:161-169.
Dr. David J. Blyweiss began his medical career as a clinical pharmacist in South Florida prior to earning his medical degree from St. George's University School of Medicine in 1982.
His dual background allowed him to appreciate the relevance of conventional pharmaceutical/surgical based treatments in acute medical conditions, and recognize where these approaches fell short in treating the majority of patients who suffered from the chronic degenerative diseases of "western civilization origin."
Over the last twenty years, with the nutritional medical knowledge base expanding in the fields of nutrigenomics, protemics, and other related "orthomolecular" disciplines directed towards patients' biochemical individuality, Dr. Blyweiss became an early adherent and experienced practitioner of what would become known as "functional medicine." This knowledge allows him to effectively manage and alleviate the symptoms related to the most "difficult-to-treat" conditions by addressing the underlying causes, allowing the body to heal itself.
Dr. Blyweiss was one of the initial researchers doing the early work on chlorhexidine (Phisohex) while earning his first post graduate degree at Temple University School of Pharmacy. During medical school he worked with the WHO (World Health Organization) in vaccinating children in the islands of the Carribbean. He has traveled much of the world, most recently to Belize, Central America, Gabon, Africa, and Zagreb, Croatia working closely with teams of specialists to identify new plant life and natural products for possible human benefit as well as researchers and their stem cell transplantation teams. He has consulted for and created state-of-the-art nutritional supplements for multiple nutritional companies since 1999. He is currently in private practice in South Florida where he resides with his family.
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