June 6, 2008 -- Here's a new reason to toast red wine: A natural compound called resveratrol, found in certain red wines, may trick the body into thinking it's getting fewer calories than it actually is -- and you don't need to overindulge to reap the reward.
Research published in the June 3 issue of the online, open-access journal Public Library of Science One (PLoS One) suggests that drinking red wine may offer many of the same benefits as a reduced-calorie diet.
A team of international researchers found that low doses of resveratrol slowed the aging process in middle-aged mice and improved their overall heart health. Specifically, the results observed in the resveratrol-fed mice mimicked those often seen with caloric restriction -- the practice of cutting 20%-30% of calories out of one's typical diet in an effort to improve health and prolong life. Numerous studies have linked caloric restriction to a longer, healthier life.
What's more, the study researchers discovered that resveratrol is active in much lower doses than previously thought. Until now, researchers believed that high doses of resveratrol -- impossible to obtain by drinking wine -- were necessary to ward off the unhealthy consequences of eating a high-fat, high-calorie diet.
"This brings down the dose of resveratrol toward the consumption reality mode," study researcher Richard Weindruch, a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of medicine and a researcher at the William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital, says in a news release.
The researchers believe their findings provide strong evidence that resveratrol can improve one's quality of life and call the idea of low-dose resveratrol supplementation -- in the form of wine or perhaps one day a pill -- "a robust intervention in the retardation of cardiac aging."
Drinking one or two glasses of red wine each day can protect against cardiovascular disease in certain people. However, more than that can result in negative effects that outweigh the positive ones. For example, drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of triglycerides in some people.
Finally, drinking red wine does not completely negate poor lifestyle choices. The calorie-restricted mice had lower rates of cancer. There was no comparable reduction in the incidence of tumors in the resveratrol-supplemented mice. So attaining and maintaining a normal weight, eating a sensible diet, and engaging in regular exercise remain important components for living a long and healthy life.