For the past few years, we’ve been told that red wine and dark chocolate are good for us in moderation due to an included component called resveratrol. Credited with anti-aging effects, cardiovascular benefits, and even anti-cancer properties, resveratrol made it more-than-okay to indulge (as if some of us needed an excuse). But while one recent study indicates resveratrol works by reducing inflammation, another suggests it doesn’t work at all.
According to Medical News Today, researchers with Scripps Research Institute in Florida have been looking into the how of resveratrol and think they’ve figured out why this compound has such reported benefits.
Those researchers say resveratrol works by blocking interleukin 6 (IL-6), a protein that triggers inflammation. High levels of this protein have been associated with decreased survival in breast cancer patients. By working with the body’s estrogen receptors, resveratrol is able to block IL-6 in women.
“Estrogen has beneficial effects on conditions like diabetes and obesity but may increase cancer risk,” said lead researcher Kendall Nettles. “What hasn’t been well understood until now is that you can achieve those same beneficial effects with something like resveratrol. Now that we understand that we can do this through the estrogen receptor, there might be compounds other than resveratrol out there that can do the same thing, only better.”
Another recent study, however, suggests resveratrol may not be as beneficial as thought. Published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the study says there is “no association between resveratrol and longevity, cancer, cardiovascular disease, or inflammation in general.”
The Study and Previous Research
Researchers followed 783 elderly residents of the Tuscany region of Chianti, where red wine is plentiful. Testing their resveratrol levels over a period of nine years, they analyzed how these levels coincided with disease and death. Those who lived throughout the entire length of the nine year study had no more resveratrol in their urine than those who died. Also, they had no noticeable difference in cancer and heart disease risk.
How can the validity of these two studies stand in such sharp contrast? They were very different. The first analyzed the effects of resveratrol in a lab on cells, looking under a microscope. The second looked at the effects of dietary resveratrol within the human body.
Some have remarked that the Tuscany study shouldn’t discourage our faith in the abilities of resveratrol. Firstly, because red wine, dark chocolate, blueberries, and other foods rich in resveratrol are also loaded with other beneficial polyphenols, which likely work in tandem with resveratrol to make the health benefits possible. Secondly, higher doses of resveratrol, such as those applied to cells in a lab, could have far more significant effects than the resveratrol found in a glass of wine.
In other words, don’t abandon resveratrol just yet.