We've all heard about how red wine can help with cardiovascular health and how it helps us to relax at the end of a long work day. With recent studies, we also have heard how more than three glasses of wine per week can put women at higher risk for breast cancer. So, what are we supposed to really feel about alcohol and red wine?
Well, a recent study that was published in Cell Metabolism from November 2011, showed that a small study of 11 obese men who got 150 milligrams per day of resveratrol (ResVida) in a randomized, double-blind crossover study for 30 days showed metabolic changes mimicking the effects of calorie restriction.
Essentially, they saw mild improvement in blood pressure, improved mobilization of lipid and triglycerides, decreased liver function test levels along with inflammatory markers and improved post-meal fatty tissue utilization and sugar metabolism.
The limitation of this study is that the sample size was small. Additional studies with larger sample sizes will have to be performed to further delineate definitive benefits of resveratrol. But with such an early study result, this may very well signify a relatively benign option for obese patients as far as finding adjunctive healthy options to aid in weight loss.
It is inappropriate to think to obtain the resveratrol in wine for obese patients looking for weight loss support. The caloric content in wine would not be helpful and this study was based on a resveratrol supplement. Also, alcohol may alter a person's level of judgment for food intake and would increase the likelihood of a person eating more and consuming more calories; above and beyond the increased calories just from the alcohol.
So, my recommendation would be to stick to the supplement and not utilize red wine for the purposes of weight loss.
For the purposes of this article, I would like to discuss the specifics of what resveratrol was seen to do at the cellular level for these patients and how that may be viewed practically when we think about who might or might not benefit from resveratrol supplementation.
In the study, they saw that resveratrol helped to reduce accumulation of fat in the liver, blood sugar after meals, blood pressure, triglycerides and inflammation. It also helped to boost efficiency of muscles. At the dosage used in the study, you would have to drink about two gallons of red wine a day to get the equivalent amount of resveratrol. So, clearly, supplementation would be the way to go.
Other options would be to consume grapes and grape seeds but this would not be recommended because it would be difficult to keep the intake of grapes to reasonable serving sizes so as not to consume large glycemic loads of it. Even with natural food consumption such as this, in order to isolate such a dosage of resveratrol, you would still need to consume larger quantities of the food and thus more calories to get it.
So, for those who have already gone out to the stores to buy resveratrol out of excitement from recent study findings, what should you be cautious about?
My main concern would be safety for those people with diabetes who are on insulin or diabetes medications that could lower blood sugar levels.
For these patients, make sure that your physicians are aware you are on this and to monitor your blood sugar regularly to make sure your blood sugar levels don't decrease too much while on the medication along with this supplement.
Although the study showed improved glucose metabolism after eating, these patients in the study did not have diabetes. So, until we know more about its effects on diabetics, it is safer to inform your physician and monitor your blood sugar level until you know you stay stable on the supplement while taking medications.
What is exciting about this study is that we are learning more and more about the benefits of supplements and foods and how to utilize them for health improvement.
While some supplements are unnecessary and may even be potentially harmful because of its synthetic form or inappropriate usage, when supplements are utilized appropriately for certain specific patients, they can prove to be very beneficial as adjunctive therapeutic options.
Similar to medications where they are not appropriate for everyone, supplements should also be utilized in a way that is specific to every patient and not be given at the same dosage for everyone in the general public.
As obesity and chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes continue to reach epidemic proportions, we need to look outside the medicine box for lifestyle, nutritional and nutraceutical options to fight this uphill battle.
While this study is just the beginning, as are many others that are just now being published, we are at least headed in the right direction in searching for comprehensive methods of dealing with epidemic health concerns.
Although further studies are definitely needed to establish long-term safety, health benefits for non-obese patients, health benefits for various chronic diseases, and dosing variations for various health goals, this is a great start on a road to looking for new health solutions to age-old health concerns.
Timmers S, et al. Calorie Restriction-like Effects of 30 Days of Resveratrol Supplementation on Energy Metabolism and Metabolic Profile in Obese Humans. "Cell Metabolism." (2011) 14: 612-622.