Skip to main content

The red wine diet to lose weight? Believe it (sort of)

If you follow the news about red wine you will have been deluged with coverage of a recent study finding that it prevents fat cells from maturing, and is therefore the latest miracle weight loss solution. The specific ingredient, a polyphenol called piceatannol, has not previously received a lot of attention. It does provide some answers to questions such as why wine drinkers are less likely to gain weight or develop type 2 diabetes, but raises some new questions too.

What the study found is that piceatannol inhibits the development of young fat cells – called preadipocytes – into permanent adult type fat cells. It accomplishes this by blocking the effect of insulin which activates genes in these cells that signal them to grow up and store fat. In theory, then, this could explain one of the benefits of a daily tipple.

The study also sheds some light on the role of resveratrol, the molecule that has received so much attention in recent years. As I pointed out in my book Age Gets Better with Wine, resveratrol doesn’t seem to last long in the blood stream after ingestion, one reason being that much of it is metabolized into piceatannol. Without knowing much about the effects of piceatannol, it is hard to give much credit to resveratrol. (Another problem still not explained is that there isn’t enough resveratrol in wine to explain the range of benefits that wine drinkers experience.)

So we are still left with a bit of a conundrum in that neither piceatannol nor resveratrol are the answer. It is just too big of a leap from treating cells in a dish in a laboratory to understanding the effects in the human body. Wine drinkers are healthier in large part because they eat better, exercise more, and tend to take a balanced approach to wine consumption. For these and other reasons, I will continue to patronize my local wine shop instead of the supplement store.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Wear red and DRINK red for women’s heart health

This Friday Feb 2nd is the annual “wear red” day in Canada and the U.S. to raise awareness for women’s heart health. Why only a day for the number one threat to women’s health? Women are 5 times more likely to succumb to heart disease than breast cancer, which gets a whole month (October.) Another contradiction is that the advice women hear about prevention of breast cancer is the opposite of what you can do to lower the risk of heart disease: a daily glass of wine. Even one drink a day raises your risk of breast cancer, we are told, ignoring the overriding benefits of wine on heart health. Drink red wine to live longer Here’s why I think women should also “drink red.” For starters, wine helps de-stress and celebrates life. Stress is a factor in heart disease, and if that were the only way wine helped it would be worth considering. But the medical evidence is also strong: a daily glass of red wine helps raise the HDL “good cholesterol” levels, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular p…

How globalization of drinking habits threatens the French paradox

It seems that the more studies we see on the relationship between wine and health, and the larger they are, the more contradictory the results. Headlines summarizing comprehensive international studies declare the French paradox dead, and all alcoholic beverages are equally detrimental. I think there is an overlooked explanation for this: over the past several decades, convergence of drinking patterns around the world has separated wine from its role as a daily part of a meal. Globalization has commoditized our views about drink, toppling it from its role as a culturally specific emblem. Global convergence of drinking There are several recent reports summarizing the trend,[i],[ii],[iii]and it applies for both developed and developing countries. Since the early 1960s, wine’s share of global alcohol consumption has more than halved, declining from 35% to 15%. Beer and spirits have taken up the slack, with beer gaining 42% and spirits adding 43%, both large gains. The bigger story howeve…

Which types of wine are the healthiest?

I am often asked after lecturing on the healthful properties of wine which type is best to drink. Since much of the discussion has to do with the polyphenol antioxidants from the skins and seeds of the grape, red wine is the first criterion since it is fermented with the whole grape rather than the pressed juice. This allows for extraction and concentration of these compounds, familiar ones being resveratrol and tannins. But beyond that, which varietals have the highest concentrations?


According to the Roman philosopher Pliny the Elder, “The best kind of wine is that which is pleasant to him that drinks it” but modern science expects more specifics. (The point of course is that if you have a wine that you enjoy you are more likely to drink regularly and therefore reap the benefits.) But there are several difficulties in singling out certain wines for their healthful properties. Which compounds to measure? Are we talking about heart health or the whole gamut? Is it the varietal of the …