Metabolism Boost: Red Wine?

December 15, 2011

Can drinking wine give your metabolism a boost? A new study says maybe... but it's not that simple. Find out more here

Researchers have been able to make a strong argument for the positive relationship between moderate red wine drinking and prevention of certain cancers, heart disease and even an increase in lifespan. Now the results of a small study show promise into how red wine may even improve metabolism and insulin response.

So what is it about red wine that has researchers so interested? Resveratrol - it’s a polyphenol found in grapes, red wine, purple grape juice, peanuts and some red berries. It primarily acts as an antioxidant, “mopping up” free radicals in the body. Our need for antioxidants is derived from a paradox in metabolism. Our bodies require oxygen to function, but oxygen - by itself - is highly reactive and creates harmful byproducts through oxidation. These byproducts, called free radicals, are potentially damaging to cells - thus antioxidants can stabilize free radicals before they cause harm.

What does the new research say? Well, animal studies have previously found that resveratrol improves the insulin response as well as blood lipids; similar to what happens when people restrict the number of calories consumed. According to researcher Patrick Schrauwen from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, “now we have shown for the first time that resveratrol works in humans, the way we’ve seen it affect animals… This is very positive news.”

The researchers found that resveratrol acted much like a low-calorie diet in terms of reducing energy expenditure and improving metabolism, and overall health. Changes included reduced fat in the liver, lower blood pressure, and lower blood sugar. Male participants also had changes in the way their muscles burned fat.

Resveratrol has also demonstrated an anti-inflammatory ability as well as an ability to inhibit the molecules that lead to build up on the arterial walls, both are associated with heart disease.

Why do plants produce Resveratrol? Some types of plants produce resveratrol in response to stress, injury, fungal infection, or ultraviolet (UV) radiation, according to researchers at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

Before you run out to the nearest wine store or supermarket to stock up - remember that moderation (1 glass of wine for women and 2 for men) in all foods and beverages is the key to overall good health and can lower the risk of a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers.

The study is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.