Healthy living

Scientists uncork 'secret of red wine's health benefits'

cheers! Study shows how resveratrol controls inflammation

Resveratrol is a chemical which has been found to have various health benefits related to heart disease and cancer but it was not clear how this works, until now.

Resveratrol is found in a number of plants, including the skins of red grapes. This had lead many to conclude that the supposed health benefits of drinking red wine are due to this chemical.

In the new study, scientists from Glasgow and Singapore gave an inflammatory agent to groups of mice. Some of the mice had received resveratrol beforehand, while the others had not.

Those mice that did not get it showed a much greater response to the inflammatory agent, while the group that did receive it were protected by it.

The presence of resveratrol prevented the body from creating two different molecules known to trigger inflammation, sphingosine kinase and phospholipase D - in this way it provided a double protection.

The scientists hope that this effect can be harnessed in some way to create treatments for inflammatory conditions such as sepsis.

"Strong acute inflammatory diseases such as sepsis are very difficult to treat and many die every day due to lack of treatment," said Alirio Melendez, senior lecturer on the faculty of medicine at Glasgow Biomedical Research Centre in Scotland and one of the researchers involved in the work.

"Moreover, many survivors of sepsis develop a very low quality of life due to the damage that inflammation causes to several internal organs. The ultimate goal of our study was to identify a potential novel therapy to help in the treatment of strong acute inflammatory diseases," Dr Melendez added.

The study will be published in the August edition of the FASEB Journal.

Should I drink more red wine?

Well not yet. This study was carried out on mice and has yet to be replicated in humans. Furthermore while resveratrol may be beneficial on its own, when taken in red wine the negative effects of the alcohol would outweigh any putative positive ones.

Also, the levels of resveratrol in the average bottle of wine are too low to be of much benefit and would certainly be of no use in treating a serious condition such as sepsis. Sorry!

This article was published on Fri 31 July 2009

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