A new study shows resveratrol, a compound found in the skins of red fruits such as grapes, may slow down the inflammatory process involved in the lung disease COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease).
If further studies confirm those results, the compound may eventually offer a new way to treat the irreversible lung disease.
COPD occurs when there is irreversible lung tissue damage, which makes breathing difficult and eventually impossible. Cigarette smoking is the biggest risk factor for COPD, and the only known way to slow down the progression of the disease is to stop smoking.
Red Wine Extract Slows COPD
Researchers say resveratrol has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and is thought to be responsible for many of red wine's health benefits.
Inflammation also plays a key role in COPD. People with the condition have higher than normal levels of cells called macrophages. These macrophages are involved in the inflammatory process, and in the lungs they release powerful chemicals called interleukins, which stimulate the growth and activity of other cells that contribute to lung damage.
To see if resveratrol's anti-inflammatory properties might also slow inflammation in the lung, researchers tested the effects of resveratrol on lung fluid samples taken from 15 smokers and 15 people with COPD in two different experiments.
In the first, the macrophages were artificially spurred into action by an interleukin or cigarette smoke and then resveratrol was added. In the second test, the red wine extract was added without artificial stimulation of the inflammatory process.
Researchers found that resveratrol more than halved the production of interleukin in stimulated samples for both smokers and people with COPD. It also nearly eliminated interleukin production all together in the unstimulated samples.
The results appear in the November issue of the journal Thorax.
Researchers say resveratrol was so effective at reducing inflammatory markers in laboratory tests that the compound may eventually be developed into a new treatment for COPD. But the one disadvantage of using resveratrol in treating COPD may be that it is not easily absorbed by the lungs.