Research in the area of wine and health has exploded in recent years and in this blog I sort through it to see what is really useful. For a definitive resource please refer to my book Age Gets Better with Wine: New Science for a Healthier, Better, and Longer Life.
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Versatile Resveratrol Part 2: The ultimate skin care ingredient?
What would the ideal anti-aging skin
care product look like? To begin with, it would need to provide protection against sun damage from UV exposure.[i] Of
course any sunscreen does that, so what we really want is something that can
help reverse the effects of UV exposure, which include mutations in the DNA of
skin cells. This is where the idea of working at a molecular level comes into
play. While many products talk about “DNA repair” the evidence for a role for
resveratrol is particularly strong. There are several ways that resveratrol
functions in this regard, the best known of which is its powerful antioxidant
Healthier DNA means not only more
attractive skin but a lower risk of skin
cancers. The use of antioxidants such as resveratrol to lower risk of skin
cancer is known as chemoprevention. There
is evidence that it may help prevent many other types of cancer as well.
Another measure of aging has to do
with integrity of sequences on the ends of the chromosome known as telomeres[ii].
Each time a cell replicates, the DNA must “unzip” to provide a template for the
chromosomes in the new cell. It is prevented from unraveling by telomeres, which
are sort of like the caps on shoelaces, but with each cycle the telomeres get
shorter.. Restoring telomeres is a major effort in anti-aging, and it appears
that resveratrol may activate the enzyme that restores telomeres (telomerase),
thereby improving cellular health and longevity.
Nothing will magically undo every
DNA mutation or the visible manifestations of them in the skin (such as discoloration,
wrinkles, and other blemishes) so our ideal product should help with those too.
One way that resveratrol improves skin is by inhibition of the enzyme that
makes pigment, which results in lightening of dark spots and overall brightening[iii]
of the skin.
is another manifestation of the type of inflammation associated with
accelerated aging. Resveratrol has also been shown to reduce facial redness
with a twice daily application for 6 weeks, and continued improvement beyond
We all know that good skin is built
by good collagen and elastin (a
typeof collagen.) These proteins are
constantly being rebuilt by enzymes known as matrix metalloproteinases, referred to as
“MMP’s.” Regulation of MMP activity is critical to skin health and aging. It
should come as no surprise then that resveratrol is implicated in regulation of
MMP via SIRT activation[v],
improving the skin’s stress response to UV exposure. This translates into
healthier collagen and more elastic skin.
Sometimes however collagen
rebuilding is overly exuberant, resulting in thickened scars. An extreme form
of scarring is keloid, and treatment
of keloidsremains a challenge for
plastic surgeons. An effective weaponmay be found in resveratrol, which has been shown to inhibit the cells
(fibroblasts) that are overly active in keloids, while having no adverse effect
on normal fibroblasts.[vi]
Acne is another common problem, and
not one limited to teenagers. While there are effective treatments for acne
such as benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin (Retin-A), these can cause irritation. Resveratrol is proving to be a useful
adjunct to acne treatment,[vii]with more than one mode of action: It is antibacterial with specific
effects on the type of bacteria associated with acne, while its
anti-inflammatory properties reduce the redness and irritation.
A later life issue is changes in the skin with menopause. These
include thinning due to lowered collagen production, dryness due to lessened
moisture retention, and others. Given the controversies with estrogen
replacement therapy, the need for a product providing estrogen-like effects in
the skin is substantial. Resveratrol is one of the few ingredients capable of
stimulating collagen production through estrogen-like effects.[viii]
If resveratrol is going to
accomplish all of these anti-aging feats in a skin care product, it has to
permeate the skin and reach the cells active in regeneration (bioavailability.) resveratrol is
uniquely suited to traverse the barrier of hardened surface cells known as the
stratum corneum because of a few features. One is the small size of the
molecule, probably the smallest of the antioxidant polyphenols; the other is
that it is hydrophobic, meaning that it is more comfortable in lipids (fatty
molecules.) These types of molecules are able to penetrate better.
Nichols JA, Katiyar SK. Skin photoprotection
by natural polyphenols: anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and DNA repair
mechanisms. Arch Dermatol Res. 2010 Mar;302(2):71-83
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…
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
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 …