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Are Red Wine and Chocolate the Answer to a Longer Life? Are Red Wine and Chocolate the Answer to a Longer Life?

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Are Red Wine and Chocolate the Answer to a Longer Life?

New research shows that the antioxidant thought to improve health may not be all that powerful.

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(MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP/Getty Images)

Red wine and chocolate might be the perfect combination for recharging after a long day, but a new study suggests they're not the magical elixir for a longer life.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that resveratrol—the antioxidant in red wine and chocolate that has long been cited as a possible explanation for the "French Paradox"—actually has little effect on aging.

 

Researchers tracked for 11 years roughly 800 Italian men and women age 65 and older to determine if the levels of resveratrol in their diet played a role in reducing inflammation, cancer, cardiovascular disease, and death. They found no association between resveratrol and longevity of life.

Richard Semba, a professor at Johns Hopkins and the lead researcher on the project, said it oversimplifies the "French Paradox" to credit resveratrol intake through heavy wine consumption as the reason the French have low rates of cardiovascular disease despite a diet rich in fatty foods.

"I think there are other factors involved," Semba said. "Other antioxidants other than resveratrol could contribute, … or smaller portions and more exercise. The 'French Paradox' is still kind of a hypothesis. It doesn't seem to make sense."

 

The National Institute on Aging funded the research, which was conducted independently of the agency.

The research doesn't overturn the so-called French Paradox altogether—other chemical compounds in red wine and chocolate could still offer health benefits, Semba says. And resveratrol has been linked in earlier tests of nonhuman species such as mice to anti-aging benefits, reduced risk of blood clotting, and prevention against obesity and diabetes.

But the findings from Johns Hopkins are based on the first studies using human subjects to determine the effects of resveratrol on aging, according to Semba.

So when it comes to buying resveratrol in dietary supplements, he doesn't recommend shelling out the dough. Semba calls the supplements a "false hope"—about as effective as drinking large quantities of red wine to improve your health.

 

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