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Wine and Resveratrol

by Staff Writer - C. Barnett | November 30, 2009

When red wine is made, the juice from the grape must spend time saturating with the skins in order to extract necessary color and other polyphenols (an antioxidant found in grapes). Resveratrol is also extracted during this process. Resveratrol is a natural compound that can be found in red wine and the skin of the grapes used to produce it. Red wine is brimming with resveratrol. It is found in high concentrations in the skin of the grape, and seems to play a role in protecting it from invading bacteria and fungi. Resveratrol, a potent polyphenol is part of the grapevine's immune system. The compound is mobilized to fight invaders, such as molds and insects. Resveratrol becomes absorbed into red wine during the contact the fermenting juice has with the skins.

Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes. The Malbec grape has a thick skin and contains a large amount of resveratrol. Vine grapes grown in cooler climates have higher resveratrol levels than those from warmer climes (such as California and Spain). The varieties with the most resveratrol in the wine include Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Pinot Noir.

The regular drinking of red wine has been suggested as the explanation for the "French Paradox", which is the relatively low occurrences of coronary disease in France as compared with other Western countries, despite the generally high intake of saturated fat in the French diet. The French’s preference for fatty cuisine has not saddled its population with widespread heart disease. This has mystified nutrition experts for decades. One explanation may be the French’s fondness for drinking large amounts of wine.

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Numerous scientific studies have shown resveratrol to have many health benefits, which include: Antioxidant protection against stress; Lowering bad (LDL) cholesterol; Promoting cell termination in various types of cancer cells; Reducing the risk of cardiovascular (heart) disease; and Preventing and slowing the formation of blood clots. The average amount of Resveratrol in a 5 ounce glass of red wine is only 0.285mg.

The chemical composition of red wine may contribute to its apparent benefit. A series of scientific studies suggests that the polyphenol compound resveratrol in red wine may play an active role in limiting the start and progression of the artery wall thickening, such as cholesterol. Resveratrol can mimic many of the effects of calorie restriction. Calorie restriction turns on the survival gene. There are strong indications that a restricted calorie intake among humans could be extremely beneficial to a person’s health.

Resveratrol has been gaining celebrated popularity as a potentially key player in The French Paradox. Some plants make Resveratrol as a natural antibiotic to fight pathogenic bacteria and fungi, and it has a number of different but equally beneficial actions in human cells. Diets rich in the chemical appear to protect the heart, slow weight gain, boost the rate at which the body burns fat and even extend lifespan. Resveratrol has been shown to reduce tumor incidence and inhibit growth of cancer cells in the laboratory. Studies have begun to directly link red wine consumption to a reduction of cancer risk in humans. Other research studies have shown that a glass of red wine a day can cut a man's risk of prostate cancer in half, particularly when it comes to the most aggressive types of prostate cancer.

It should be noted that the health benefits of resveratrol on humans are still not completely proven. In laboratory experiments, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant improvement, lowering blood sugar and other beneficial cardiovascular effects of resveratrol have been reported. Most of these results have yet to be replicated in humans. The guideline for moderate consumption of wine is noted as 1 to 2 glasses of wine a day for men and 1 glass a day for women. A glass is equal to approximately 5 ounces of wine of about 12% alcohol. Research shows that this amount gives the most beneficial effects without increasing the risks of negative health issues.

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