Newspapers, magazines and TV over the last few years have been filled with news of the anti-aging, antioxidant and seemingly miraculous properties of red wine. Many believe that the proven benefits of red wine explain the “French Paradox” in which the French have lower rates of heart disease yet consume a high fat diet.
The primary health component of wine that researchers have uncovered is called resveratrol. It is a compound found in the skin and seeds of grapes and created during the fermentation process. Therefore if the juice is never fermented (as in grape juice) or if wine is made from juice concentrates that contain no skins (as in home winemaking kits), then you will not be receiving much of the incredible benefits of this tremendous antioxidant. In addition, white wine has lower amounts of resveratrol than red wine because the grape skins are removed earlier in the winemaking process.
Apparently, resveratrol exists in the skins as a protective mechanism for the grapes. It is a built in antibiotic to protect the plant against disease and infections and that protective ability carries over to our bodies when we consume it in the right form. Because colder climates have a higher incidence of fungus, grapes grown in colder climates have more resveratrol than their warmer grown counterparts.
Resveratrol is also found in a number of other foods and berries, such a peanuts and blueberries but grapes, particularly winemaking grapes such as Muscadine, are the clear winner. Resveratrol nutritional supplements are either made from the powdered and ground skin and seeds of grapes or more likely they are made from Japanese knotweed which contains a fairly high amount of resveratrol.
Researchers have studied the benefits of resveratrol extensively and found it to be a very potent antioxidant. Mice who take it live longer and essentially become olympic athletes without the training. It can prevent, slow or reverse coronary heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and aging. According to Wikipedia, resveratrol has been proven in scientific studies to extend the lifespan of worms, mice, and fruit flies. The mice not only lived longer, but the resveratrol actually counteracted the effects of a high fat diet.
As a cancer preventer, resveratrol is most effective in studies when it comes in direct contact with the cancer, such as skin cancer or gastrointestinal tumors. According to resveratrolnews.com, “Other new discoveries show it [resveratrol] does still more — repairs alcohol -damaged livers, slows bone loss (osteoporosis), boosts endurance, promotes hair growth, and re-energizes cells.” In addition, resveratrol also seems to have anti-viral properties and can enhance the benefits of retrovirals use to treat HIV, and has been proven to block the Herpes and influenza virus. It is unclear whether resveratrol needs to be taken orally or topically to enjoy these benefits.
The alcohol itself may offer heart healthy benefits as well, which are not exclusive to red wine.
Various studies have indicated that moderate amounts of all types of alcohol benefit your heart, not just alcohol found in red wine. Some heart-healthy benefits of alcohol include:
- Raises high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol
- Lowers blood pressure
- Inhibits the formation of blood clots
- Helps prevent artery damage caused by high levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the “bad” cholesterol Mayclinic.com
Dr. Mercola has a different take on alcohol because he believes that alcohol is a neurotoxin which damages our brains and that it can easily disrupt our hormonal balance. He does not recommend alcohol in any amounts but suggests we should take our resveratrol in the form of grape skins. He also notes, that unless you know the source of your wine and it is organic, then it may not contain any resveratrol anyway.
If you are interested in adding resveratrol to your nutrition and supplement routine there are a number of great resveratrol products on the market but you might also consider purchasing organic winemaking grapes and making your own. You can also eat grape skins as Dr. Mercola suggests or if you enjoy having a glass of red wine with dinner, then continue to do so but do not start drinking a bottle a night looking for increased health benefits.