We’d all like an elixir that makes us live a long, healthy life. And if that elixir were red wine…all the better! However (of course there’s a however), although red wine does have a lot of potential health benefits, it’s far from being a cure-all. It should still be consumed with caution. Here’s what we know about red wine and longevity.
The French Paradox
In an effort to understand the “French Paradox'” (why French people can indulge in fatty foods but not develop heart disease), red wine came into focus in 1991 on an episode of “60 Minutes.” Since then, scientists have been feeding components of red wine to mice and other animals in an attempt to understand the full health benefits.
Resveratrol: The Important Flavonoid in Red Wine
Red wine is high in flavonoids, which are antioxidants. Antioxidants help prevent certain molecules, known as free radicals, from damaging cells.
One of the most studied flavonoids is resveratrol, which is found in grape skins and seeds. It’s also found in some other plant foods, including cranberries, mulberries, lingonberries, peanuts, and pistachios.
Research has credited resveratrol with possible protective effects against a variety of diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. Plus, it’s been linked to longevity.
Resveratrol’s Role in Longevity
According to research, resveratrol may act on several parts of your body to improve longevity:
- It activates the longevity-related protein sirtuin 1 (SIRT1).
- It helps to improve insulin sensitivity.
- It improves mitochondria function, which plays a role in aging.
Red Wine vs. Calorie Restriction
Studies have shown that calorie restriction can play a role in longevity. In part, that’s because calorie restriction can activate nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD), which in turn can spur the “longevity genes” SIRT1 and SIRT2. Resveratrol seems to act along the same pathways to mimic the effect of caloric restriction on your cells (or at least in the cells and lifespans of yeast, fruit flies, and mice).
Wine in Moderation
If you drink wine or any other alcohol, you should do so moderately to get any potential health benefits from it. Moderate drinking is defined as up to one drink a day for women and two for men.
If you don’t currently drink alcohol, don’t start. If you drink more than the recommendations for “moderate” drinking, those health benefits get canceled out by the health risks associated with high consumption of alcohol.
That being said, the dose of resveratrol used in studies far exceeds the amount of resveratrol you’d get in a glass of wine.
If you don’t drink wine, you might be wondering if you should be taking resveratrol supplements. As a rule, it’s generally better to get polyphenols directly from the source. In this case, if not from wine, then from peanuts, red grapes, and blueberries. Not only is it more enjoyable to get your nutrients from food than from pills, it’s also likely to deliver the nutrients in a complete package.
A Word From Tips For Healthy Living
Research studies come and go regarding the health benefits of wine and scientists are continuing to understand the role of flavonoids in aging. Keeping these things in mind, drinking red wine is not going to necessarily increase your lifespan. There are many other factors that play into your health and a good diet, exercise, and healthy lifestyle choices are still likely more beneficial more than a glass of wine.