Is resveratrol, an ingredient in red wine, the key to a long life?
Does red wine extend the life? Already for a long time one knows that in certain areas in France or Italy humans live on the average longer. Especially, one finds fewer cases of coronary diseases - known as the French paradox - for which a moderate consumption of red wine has been assumed to be the reason. Already in 1995 a study from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, caused a stir with the conclusion, that moderate but steady consumption of wine - especially red wine - reduces the risk of a heart attack or other diseases (lowering of the cancer risk, increase of the body-own defense) by nearly 50%. Resveratrol, a polyphenol concentrated particularly highly in red grapes, were attributed these amazing characteristics.
A study,1 which was recently published in the renowned journal Nature, concluded that overweight mice who received resveratrol lived almost as long and with good bio values despite a diet rich in fat as their fellow mice being on a low-fat diet but not receiving the substance. Without resveratrol, however, the overweight mice died considerably earlier from diseases typical for obesity such as heart failure or diabetes. There is evidence that resveratrol prevents the up regulation of mitochondria biogenesis by which cell death is caused via oxygen radicals.
Red grapes contain a high amount of flavonoides and polyphenols like resveratrol, especially in their skins and stones. If the grapes are pressed hard crushing the stones, which is usually judged as inferior, arrive more from these materials into the wine. This is also caused by keeping the wine for several years in barique barrels - a quality criterion -, since the oak wood also contains poly phenols that are extracted during the storage. Polyphenols - affectionately also called vitamin P (P for polyphenol or protection) - keep the blood arteries wide by inhibition of the vessel narrowing peptide endothelin-1, which explains the positive effect for the cardiovascular system.
Red wine contains approximately 4 mg per liter, this is 20 to 30 times more resveratrol than white wine, and Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir take a leading position here. Among the white wines there are known a few kinds of German Riesling, which reach at least about 1 mg resveratrol per liter.
But resveratrol seems to be able to do still more: As an antioxidant it is not only able to make cell damaging free radicals innocuous, it also increases the activity of the chinon reductase, which is responsible for neutralizing carcinogenic materials that have invaded a cell. Resveratrol also inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase (COX), which plays an important role of activating substances that can cause cancer.
Truly an amazing biological variety that is exhibited by resveratrol. Actually nature had invented this material only for the protection of the grapes: Resveratrol is particularly produced by the grapes with injury of the berry skin or with infestation of the grapes with fungi. The latter explains the higher concentration of resveratrol in Riesling wine, since for its production berries are harvested late, and a moderate infestation with fungi (so called Botrytis ripe tone) is gladly tolerated.
Although resveratrol has become the focus of attention, many polyphenols and flavonoides contained in wine are responsible for the effects described here. It is therefore assumed that taking resveratrol via tablets alone will not have the same effect as drinking wine, apart from missing out a nice side of life by moderate wine consumption.
1 J. A. Baur et al., Nature 2006, 444, 337.
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