Funny -- we thought red wine would be more likely to make someone unsteady. But scientists say that resveratrol, the compound found in red wine, could help improve senior mobility and prevent falls, according to new research presented to the American Chemical Society on Sunday.
In the study, researchers fed young and old lab mice a resveratrol-rich diet for eight weeks. During that period, the mice’s mobility was tested by charting their ability to cross a balance beam, with researchers noting how many times a mouse would fall.
At first, the older mice had much more difficulty than their younger peers. But when week four rolled around, the senior mice stayed on the beam more often, and their performance was close to that of the young mice.
"Our study suggests that a natural compound like resveratrol, which can be obtained either through dietary supplementation or diet itself, could actually decrease some of the motor deficiencies that are seen in our aging population," said research leader Jane Cavanaugh, Ph.D., in a press release. "And that would, therefore, increase an aging person's quality of life and decrease their risk of hospitalization due to slips and falls."
Falling is a major issue for seniors as they age. One third of adults over 65 fall every year, according to the CDC, and one-quarter of adults who experience a hip fracture die the following year, according to a report from Cayuga Medical Center.
Yet before you tipple to avoid tipping over, know that the body has difficulty absorbing resveratrol. It would take 700 four-ounce glasses of red wine a day for your body to absorb enough of the compound to see any positive outcomes. But the study’s researchers noted that even if resveratrol's effect on the brain is minimal at best, “this small margin could potentially be enough to help older people remain steady on their feet and avoid taking serious tumbles,” according to the press release.
This isn’t the first time red wine has been touted for its health properties. Red wine health benefits are gleaned from resveratrol’s antioxidant properties, which can break down dangerous free radicals. A good diet should be rich in resveratrol, according to a study published in Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences. Resveratrol can be found naturally in red wine, grape juice, peanuts, the skin of grapes and other dark fruits, such as cranberries and blueberries.
Research released earlier this year suggests that red wine can lead to a longer life. Red wine and resveratrol have also been linked to good heart health and to inhibiting the spread of a number of human cancer lines, such as breast, thyroid, prostate, colon and stomach cancers, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State, which studies micronturients.