Resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, dark chocolate and berries, has long been hailed as heart healthy and a way to fight cancer by reducing bodily inflammation. But a new study found that the antioxidant compound had no effect on healthful living.
A study led by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine ophthalmologist Richard Semba studied a group of 783 residents over the age of 65 in the Chianti region of Italy. The group of regular wine-drinkers took no supplements containing resveratrol.
However, the wine is rich in the antioxidant. But an analysis of their participants' urine, looking for resveratrol metabolites over a 24 hour period, found no difference in longevity between those who had high levels, and those who had none. That suggests that the antioxidant does not play a role in the participants' longevity.
"We look at the group with the highest intake [of resveratrol] and compare it with the lowest intake. And when we did that, we didn't see any evidence of an effect," said Semba.
Semba says whatever benefits there are from red wine must come from other so-called polyphenols, natural organic compounds that are thought to play a role in good health.
The researchers say it is likely that there is some other substance or combination of antioxidants in the alcoholic beverage that is beneficial, so there is no reason to give up a glass of wine.
Semba says it's natural, if misguided, for people to want to believe a single substance like resveratrol is going to be the key to longevity.
"I think that although people have tried to pin it on one thing [but] it's probably a lot more complicated than that. I think we are trying to be too simplistic," he said.
The study on resveratrol was funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging. The results were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.