Red Wine and Health: Greater Than the Sum of the Parts
by Will Clower, PhD, Founder and CEO of Mediterranean Wellness
Just read this headline from MedPage Today, Red Wine and Health: Resveratrol Health Benefits a Myth? Putting “red wine,” “health benefits,” and “myth” together may lead you to believe that wine is not really as healthy as we thought. But, once you read past the headline, it’s news that confirms some basic common sense notions about food and health.
First of all, just to review a bit, resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant found in wine. It has recently been touted as a way to get the benefits of red wine without the wine, abstracted into a supplement form, and spoken of as the “red wine pill”.
What did they do?
In this study, the scientists looked at 783 people of Invecchiare in Chianti, Italy, and then followed them from 1998 to 2009. They measured how much resveratrol these people were consuming and then went back to see whether MORE resveratrol equaled LESS cardiovascular illness and death.
What did they find?
There was no relationship between the amount of resveratrol and cardiovascular illness, except that those who showed less resveratrol actually had a bit less illness. In other words, there is some math that just does not add up.
- We know that moderate wine consumption is associated with healthier hearts and longer lives.
- Resveratrol is a powerful antioxidant in wine.
- Antioxidants are associated with healthier hearts and longer lives.
But, resveratrol is NOT associated with healthier hearts and longer lives?
What does this mean?
Even if the individual molecules of normal foods are incredily beneficial to our health, they clearly do not confer health alone. Therefore, abstracting them from the food and putting them into a supplement pill does not mean they will act in the same way in your body. In fact, our assumption should be that they will likely not act in the same way.
The reason for this is that molecules often confer health in your body by acting in synergy with the other components of that food. For example, it would be the unique combination of tannins plus antioxidants plus alcohol plus resveratrol and all the rest, which occurs in normal wine, that interact together to produce the better heart health we see in research.
To take one of them out, and give them to your physiology in isolation, would be like calling a soprano a choir, or a brick a building, or a quarterback a team. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
What is the take home message?
Your body knows real food, and has adapted to that food over millennia. Therefore the source of nutrients that are best recognized and utilized by your body will necessarily be real food. And when you’re eating that, you might have it with a glass of red wine.
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Dr. Will Clower is the founder and CEO of Mediterranean Wellness. He applies his neuroscience training to teach people how to eat well, lose weight, and love their food again. Based on the principles of the Mediterranean Diet, Dr. Clower reaches people all over the world through his successful programs, two books on the Mediterranean Diet, national television interviews on The Dr Oz Show, and many other radio and print appearances. His passion and authenticity is inspiring this generation to live life they love again.