Red Wine for Health?
By Pam Popper, Ph.D., N.D.


Headlines lately have been promoting the results of a study suggesting that red wine may have very important health benefits.  If you are looking for good news about bad habits, or a reason to start drinking red wine, this has to be magical information for you!

The online version of Nature reported the results of a study that showed when resveratrol, an ingredient from red wine, was fed to obese mice, their lifespan was extended.

The researchers studied 165 mice beginning at the age of 1 year, which is equivalent to human middle age.  1/3 of them were given a healthy diet, 1/3 were given a diet high in calories and fat, and 1/3 were fed a high-fat diet with the addition of resveratrol.  Both groups of mice on the high-fat diet gained weight, but those getting the resveratrol had better health outcomes.  Their livers remained normal size, while the control group’s doubled in size, and heart tissue was healthier in the resveratrol group. 

At 114 weeks of age, 58% of the animals consuming the high-fat diet had died, while 42% of those on a normal diet or taking the supplement had died.  A spokesperson for Sirtris Pharmaceuticals, a company founded by the lead research that is conducting human trials on resveratrol and diabetes said, “the molecule prevented most, if not all, of the side effects of being obese.”

Before you uncork the wine bottle, let’s insert some reality.  First, resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes, peanuts and some berries.  You do not have to consume wine or supplements to get a healthy dose of it in your diet daily.

Second, the amount of resveratrol fed to the mice daily was the equivalent of that found in 20 bottles of red wine – an amount you are unlikely to consume.  And, there has been no research conducted to determine potential adverse effects of consuming mega-doses of resveratrol over time.  “We have much to learn about resveratrol’s safety and effectiveness in humans,” stated Dr. Richard Hodes, director of the National Institute on Aging, which funded the study.  There is, however, considerable research documenting the negative effects of carrying extra weight and consuming alcohol. 

Researchers continue to pursue what I believe is misguided research – looking for a magic bullet found in isolated nutrients that can have a positive effect on health, while ignoring the bigger picture of the benefits of dietary excellence, which have been proven in massive studies like The China Project. 

In the meantime, my advice about red wine is to enjoy it as an occasional treat, if you like it.   Remember, that there should be a clear difference between the daily fare and treats, and that the blurring of this distinction is one of the major reasons people develop degenerative conditions.  

Dr. Pam Popper is a naturopath, nutritionist and the Executive Director of The Wellness Forum, a chain of licensed health and wellness centers located throughout the U.S.   The Wellness Forum teaches individuals how to change their health outcomes by assisting them in changing their diet and lifestyle habits.  She is the Founder of The Wellness Forum Foundation, which offers programming in schools designed to improve children’s health and well-being through better nutrition.