Drink to your health

New research shows the health benefits of a red wine extract.

I have enjoyed great health at a great age,” a bishop in Seville once noted, “because every day since I can remember I have consumed a bottle of wine except when I have not felt well. Then I consumed two bottles.” While the good bishop might have been playing for laughs with that statement, the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging recently turned up some surprising evidence about the real-life health benefits of wine.

The key lies in a substance called resveratrol, found in the skin of grapes and, thus, red wine. Researchers conducted a study with two groups of mice. One was fed what scientists described as a “McDonalds” diet, high in cholesterol and fat, along with concentrated resveratrol. The other group was fed the same diet without the substance. Both groups of mice gained weight, but the ones not fed resveratrol also developed signs of diabetes, including high insulin and glucose levels, and enlarged livers. Because of their diet, these mice died sooner than mice with healthy diets. The resveratrol mice, however, showed none of those ill effects from their diet and, in fact, lived just as long and stayed just as active as regular, healthy mice.

Don’t head out to the liquor store to pick up some Franzia just yet. The dosage of resveratrol in mice was equivalent to a 150-lb person drinking 750 to 1,500 bottles of wine per day. Still, researchers are calling this study a landmark contribution, and are hopeful this will have practical applications in human beings. It couldn’t come at a better time. Obesity-related diseases like diabetes are sharply on the rise and put enormous pressure on our health care system, accounting for some $90 billion a year in costs. Some even speculate that a pill form of resveratrol could be on the market as soon as five years from now.

Certainly a pill can never replace exercise or eating well, but in combination with those things, who knows what promise it might hold. To that we say, “Salud!”