Study Unlocks Secrets of Red Wine Chemical

Feb 2, 2012 12:07pm

If you love to sit back and sip a glass of cabernet or pinot noir, you can feel good knowing that the health benefits of red wine are now a little less mysterious. Scientists have uncovered how resveratrol, the chemical found in grape skins, peanuts and dark chocolate, works in mice to help fight several chronic diseases.

For the past decade, researchers have been intrigued by the apparent health benefits of resveratrol, which has been shown to fight obesity, type 2 diabetes and cancer in mice and seems to have some health benefits for humans. But no one understood how the chemical worked its magic on the body.

Now a new study from the National Institutes of Health has deciphered just how the chemical interacts with the body’s cells. The research is complicated, but spells out good news for the potential of the red-wine compound to treat chronic diseases.

Dr. Jay Chung, the study’s lead author, said resveratrol is tricky because it’s a “dirty molecule,” meaning it interacts in lots of different ways with the cells of the body, some good and some bad. By first testing cells in the lab and then testing mice, Chung and his team were able to identify which of resveratrol’s cellular hook-ups delivered the chemical’s benefits.

“By identifying the principle target of resveratrol and by using a drug that specifically interacts with that target, we may be able to derive the benefits of resveratrol without the potential adverse effects of off-target hits,” Chung told ABC News.

Chung said he’s optimistic that knowing how the red-wine ingredient works to protect mice from chronic diseases will help scientists develop drugs that can work in the same way to treat human ills, such as heart disease, diabetes or Alzheimer’s disease.

But don’t go chugging bottles of merlot just yet. The study notes that you’d have to drink more than 600 bottles of wine to get the amount of resveratrol that would deliver any noticeable health benefits.

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