A recent study shows that drinking red wine– or taking resveratrol
supplements – isn't an ingredient for a longer life after all.
U.S. researchers may have found a flaw with the "French Paradox," or
the notion that people who drink red wine can somehow avoid the pitfalls
of a high-fat diet.
A study published Monday found that resveratrol – one of the highly
touted antioxidants in red wine – did not help people live longer.
Nor did it help people avoid cancer or heart disease, according to
the research in JAMA Internal Medicine, a journal of the American
"This study suggests that dietary resveratrol from Western diets in
community-dwelling older adults does not have a substantial influence on
inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or longevity," said the
research, led by Richard Semba of the Johns Hopkins University School of
Research on animals has suggested resveratrol, a polyphenol also
found in some Asian plant roots as well as peanuts and berries, may have
beneficial health effects.
Although not proven in human studies, those findings have contributed
to a $30 million annual market for resveratrol supplements in the
United States alone, researchers said.
The latest study was based on measures of resveratrol levels in the urine of nearly 800 people in two small villages in Tuscany, Italy.
Researchers measured their urine for signs of resveratrol, to see if
the amounts they were getting through their diet would contribute to
The subjects were 65 or older when they joined the study in 1998.
In the nine years that followed, 34 percent of those in the study
died, and researchers could find no correlation between early death and
Nor could they find any significant links between resveratrol levels and the development of cancer or heart disease.
"These data are consistent with other studies that found that the
method of alcohol consumption had no effect on outcome or if there is a
benefit to red wine it does not appear to be mediated by resveratrol
specifically," said Blase Carabello, chair of cardiology at Mount Sinai
Indeed, some previous research in humans has suggested that
resveratrol may not be the cure-all some have hoped, including studies
that have shown no impact on blood pressure, metabolism or lipid levels.
"Of course the only way to be certain would be through a randomized
trial but the current data lend little support for performing such a
trial," added Carabello, who was not involved in the study.
According to Robert Graham, an internist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, the "French Paradox" is still a mystery.
"This study is a great example of how difficult it is to examine the
role of 'the magic bullet' for health and longevity, in this case
resveratrol," said Graham, who was not part of the research.
"As the authors mentioned in their study, studying resveratrol in
humans is challenging given different rates of metabolism, utilization
and excretion among different people," he added.
"The recipe for a longer, healthier life is still being developed."