Health benefits of red wine may be overhyped

BY Dave Sloan  May 14, 2014 at 4:12 PM EDT
Photo by Uncalno Tekno/Flickr

Photo by Uncalno Tekno/Flickr

Red wine — long celebrated by wine connoisseurs for its numerous health benefits, including improvements to longevity, heart health and blood circulation — might not have as many benefits as previously touted.

Researchers at The British Heart Foundation carried out a study that tracked 800 villagers from the Chianti region of Italy, most of whom were elderly volunteers. They examined whether the key wine ingredient resveratrol, has any real health benefiting qualities.

Initially, many studies linked resveratrol to prevention of heart related diseases. Known as the French Paradox, this phenomenon has become popular with wine drinkers around the globe. Epidemiologists identified that many of the French had significant lower levels of heart disease despite a relatively high diet of saturated fats.

However, the Mayo Clinic emphasizes that most research on the health benefits of resveratrol has been done on animals, not people.

“Research in mice given resveratrol suggests that the antioxidant might also help protect them from obesity and diabetes, both of which are strong risk factors for heart disease. However, those findings were reported only in mice, not in people,” Mayo Clinic staff write.

“It’s also important to know that resveratrol’s effects only last a short time after drinking red wine, so its effects may not last in the long term.”

The nine-year study revealed that there was no correlation with moderate wine consumption and a healthy heart. Out of the 800 people 268 men and women died, 174 developed heart disease, and 34 got cancer.

The British Heart Foundation says more studies are needed to fully understand the effects of resveratrol on the human body.