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.

Women taste 2013 vintage red wine at the Palais de la Bourse in Bordeaux, south-eastern France, on April 2, 2014, as around 50 wine producers from the Graves region of Bordeaux present their 2013 red and white vintage wines. The primeur campaign attracts some 6,000 professionals from the wine sector to taste and order the 2013 wine production at better prices before they go on sale two years later.
National Journal
Clara Ritger
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Clara Ritger
May 12, 2014, noon

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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