Thursday, July 15, 2010

The weight is over: new hope for the wine diet

I write this post with a bit of trepidation, because anytime we get in to the topic of wine and weight loss the inevitable controversy about resveratrol diet pills comes up. In fact it is the most recent findings about resveratrol and diet that prompted me to write this, and like so many previous reports it seems to have been widely over-interpreted. Supplement manufacturers are all over it despite the fact that like nearly every previous study, it wasn’t done on humans.

The study in question was however done on lemurs, a type of primate, so in theory they are closer to humans than lab mice or fruit flies. There is however an important difference, in that these lemurs have a variable body temperature regulation system such that their metabolism varies with the time of year. In winter they gain weight, which provided researchers with a convenient model to study the effects of resveratrol. What was found with resveratrol supplementation was increased satiety (i.e. less hunger and eating), with faster metabolism and less weight gain during their “seasonal fattening period.”* Given the pattern that many of us humans experience during the winter holidays this sounds like good news indeed.

But alas we are not lemurs, and honestly we have little to blame our seasonal weight gain on other than a change in behavior. It may be of some comfort however to bear in mind that resveratrol is a red wine polyphenol, and evidence that wine drinkers maintain a health weight as compared to nondrinkers is reasonably substantial. Clinical trials on the use of oral resveratrol supplements on the other hand can practically be counted on, well, the other hand. Encouraging though this recent study is to resveratrol supplement peddlers, it is by no means clear that the same effect will be observed in humans. As for me, I will continue to take my “medicine” in red liquid form, as I believe nature intended. Call it the wine diet if you like.

*Dal-Pan A, Blanc S, Aujard F. Resveratrol suppresses body mass gain in a seasonal non-human primate model of obesity. BMC Physiol. 2010 Jun 22;10(1):11. [Epub ahead of print]

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