Red wine has been the centre of debate for some time now, and most people have heard that one glass a day is good for your health.  The miracle properties found in the odd glass of red wine, along with grapes, chocolate, and other natural sources, is attributed to the anti-oxidant resveratrol – and it is this belief that has led to a $30 billion boom of resveratrol supplement sales in the US alone[1].  But just what are the supposed miraculous benefits and are they all that they are claimed to be?  A recent study into the effects of resveratrol suggests that they are probably not. 


The Wonder of Resveratrol

                  Over the past few years, resveratrol has often been put forward as an explanation for the famous ‘French Paradox’ – that is, for the inexplicably low rate of heart disease amongst the French, despite having diets that are high in fat and cholesterol.  The thing that they do have in common?  A high consumption of red wine, and thus, resveratrol[2].  In fact, resveratrol is attributed to aiding not only the fight against heart disease, but also many other factors too. 

                  Resveratrol supplements are purported to provide similar skeletal muscular benefits as long-term endurance training, according to a 2012 Canadian study of resveratrol in rats.  A study from Connecticut suggests that resveratrol can pre-condition the heart, thus reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke by a massive 30%.  A French study argues that resveratrol slows down the production of cancerous cells and as such, is an effective anti-cancer agent.  Researchers in Missouri discovered that resveratrol can counteract age-related vision loss by regulating angiogenesis and thus, preventing the abnormal growth of blood vessels that are so damaging to eyesight.  The Koreans studied resveratrol in mice and found that resveratrol consumption improved testosterone concentration by a massive 50%, after only 28 days.  Scientists in Illinois even discovered that resveratrol can improve memory functions and increase mental performance, after studying mice[3].  A pretty impressive list of benefits. 


On Why a Glass a Day Won’t Keep the Doctor Away

                  With such seemingly overwhelming evidence, it’s a wonder that the benefits of resveratrol would ever be in dispute, but Dr. Richard Semba, a professor of ophthalmology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore isn’t so sure.  Despite these claims, Semba says, there is “limited and conflicting human clinical data demonstrating any metabolic benefits of resveratrol”[4].  In other words, there hasn’t been enough research conducted with humans, as opposed to rats and mice, and what data there is that is available simply isn’t conclusive enough. 

                  In this vein, Semba and his team measured molecule levels in around 800 people aged 64 and above from the Chianti region of Italy – known for its wine production.  Over nine years, 268 of those tested died, and a further 208 were diagnosed with heart disease or cancer[5].  This is not unusual given their age, but in support of his hypothesis, those incidences with high levels of resveratrol were slightly more than those with low levels of resveratrol, and inflammatory markers of cardiovascular disease and cancer were no less likely to occur for those with high levels[6].  Thus, it was concluded that a glass of wine a day or taking resveratrol supplements, can’t actually benefit you in the ways that it is claimed. 

                  Semba claims that he is not surprised by his results.  Resveratrol, when consumed, is so rapidly metabolized that to see any benefit at all, consumption levels would have to be massive.  The research team make it clear that they are not saying that a glass of wine does not have any health benefits at all – or that the ‘French Paradox’ is not due to wine consumption, but simply that it is not resveratrol that is giving the boost.  “When it comes down to diet, health and aging,” Semba states, “things are not simple and probably do not boil down to one single substance, such as resveratrol. […] Perhaps it brings us back again to rather tried and true advice of diet – Mediterranean-style – and regular aerobic exercise for healthy aging.”[7]


[1]{C} Crystal Phend, 2014, Red Wine and Health: Resveratrol Health Benefits a Myth?, available at:, accessed: 07.25.2014

[2]{C} John Ross, 2014, Benefits of Red Wine a Myth, available at:, accessed: 07.25.2014

[3]{C} James Demediros, 2014, 6 Reasons to Supplements with Resveratrol, available at:, accessed: 07.25.2014

[4]{C} Cited by Phend, op. cit.

[5]{C} John Ross, op. cit.

[6]{C} Crystal Phend, op. cit. 

[7]{C} Cited by Steven Reinberg, 2014, Resveratrol in Red Wine Not Such a Health-Booster, available at, accessed 07.25.2014

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RED WINE: MIRACLE OR MYTH? by UrbanSculpt Staff Writer Victoria Froud, MA is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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