Red Wine's Magic Ingredient
You've probably heard that red wine is good for you, but did you know that its magic ingredient is being studied as a potential aid to lowering blood sugar? It's called resveratrol (rez-VEER-a-trol), and University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers report that low doses of the compound may prevent or treat so-called "diseases of aging," such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
In their study, published in the online journal Public Library of Science (June 4, 2008), scientists fed mice either a low dose of resveratrol, a calorie-restricted diet, or a control diet from "middle age" (14 months) to "old age" (30 months). The resveratrol and calorie-restricted groups showed fewer signs of aging than the control group.
Researchers also found that both calorie restriction and resveratrol supplementation seem to retard the aging process and prevent age-related decline in heart function. What's more, both approaches were found to reduce insulin resistance.
Found in wine, grapes and some berries, scientists have been exploring the health benefits of resveratrol since 1992. It is part of a group of compounds called phytoalexins, which plants produce to protect themselves against environmental stressors, such as fungal infection. Since grapes produce resveratrol to fend off fungal attacks, organic grapes — which have not been artificially protected by man-made fungicides — contain greater levels of resveratrol than commercially grown ones, according to the George Mateljan Foundation's "World's Healthiest Foods."
Past research has found the antioxidant-like compound may prevent tumors, reduce inflammation, and inhibit blood clots. However, until now, studies focused on doses of resveratrol so high that they would be difficult to achieve through diet. The new study "brings down the dose of resveratrol toward the consumption-reality mode," notes senior author Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine and researcher at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital. His study found that smaller doses, equivalent to the amount found in a glass of wine, may offer the same benefits.
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Reviewed by Susan Weiner, R.D., M.S., C.D.E., C.D.N. 10/08
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