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Published On: Wed, May 14th, 2014

Red Wine Not As Healthy As Once Thought

In a new study published in JAMA: Internal Medicine, researchers have confirmed the worst: red wine, and specifically the component resveratrol, is not as healthy as once thought.

Image/Paolo Neo

Image/Paolo Neo

Resveratrol became a household name in the early 2000s when researchers determined that animals fed foods and drinks containing noticeable amounts of resveratrol demonstrated lower risk for cardiologic defects. A key scientific paper in 2005 first showed what was dubbed the “French paradox”, where the French, who on average eat more saturated fat and cholesterol, still had lower cholesterol and heart disease than their American counterparts. Based on previous research and their own studies, the researchers confirmed that the consumption of red wine, and therefore resveratrol, was the reason for this boon in health.

Now, after studying 783 people in the Chianti region of Italy as part of 15 year aging study, the JAMA researchers confirm that resveratrol had no effect on risk of dying from chronic inflammation, cancer, or cardiovascular disease, even when they controlled for age and previous health status. “It’s just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs. These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol,” said says Richard D. Semba, M.D., M.P.H., a professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and leader of the study.

Despite these results though, there is still evidence that these foods have cardiovascular and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as neurological and anticancer effects. Besides red wine, which can have opposite effects if consumed in too much excess, other foods contain high amounts of polyphenols and resveratrol. These include red grape juice, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and bittersweet dark chocolate. The researchers cautioned though that while some foods containing resveratrol may be beneficial, that does not excuse one from over consuming dark chocolate or red wine.

Edward Marks is a PhD student at the University of Delaware.  His research involves the healing of myocardial tissue after major cardiac events using nanomedicine techniques, with the goal of pushing any advancement directly into the clinic.  Edward received his BS from Rutgers University and Masters from the University of Delaware.

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