If you want a longer, healthier, and better balanced life, science seems to be suggesting picking up a bottle of red wine.
To be sure, no one is advocating becoming an alcoholic. But study after study is showing lately that moderate consumption of red wine has surprising health benefits.
For instance, a study at the National Institute on Aging’s Laboratory of Experimental Gerontology, Aging, Metabolism, and Nutrition Unit recently found that the antioxidant resveratrol, found in red wine, reduced the effects of obesity and prolonged life in mice. These middle-aged, overweight mice were divided into three groups. One group was fed a normal diet for a year, one a high-fat, high-calorie diet, and one the exact same high-fat high-calorie diet with the addition of red wine. When the study ended, 58% of the mice on the high-fat diet without red wine had died, as expected. However, the rate of death was exactly the same among the mice fed the standard diet as among those fed the high-fat, high-calorie diet with red wine: 42%. Researchers determined that the wine decreased the likelihood of death among the obese mice by an average of 31%. They also had a better quality of life and performed better on tasks involving balance and coordination.
It has to be noted, however, that the mice did not actually lose weight. They simply were protected from many of the health problems usually associated with extra weight. They had better sugar levels and less heart problems, for instance, and healthier livers, making them less likely to suffer from diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
Of course, one glass of wine will not contain nearly the dosage of resveratrol the mice enjoyed, but it most researchers will agree that it can do no harm, and may well be beneficial. The key, of course, is moderation.
A similar study, performed on fish, was recently chronicled in Current Biology. In this study, the fish were found to live longer and to have less memory-related problems than normal. If, like me, you had seldom pondered the notion that fish have memories, this is a bit startling. In the fish, resveratrol increased the average life span by 33% to 50% depending on the dose given.
Because these findings have been consistent over a number of test on diverse short-lived animals, researchers say that these studies may be a step toward new drugs to prolong life in humans.
One final interesting study indicates that middle-aged people who drink 3 to 4 glasses of red wine a week are less likely to develop colon cancer than people who drink white wine or who don’t drink at all. They were 9% less likely than the white wine drinkers and 10% less likely than the non-drinkers.
This is significant, as colon cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States.
So, as the apostle Paul observed, one may take “a little wine for the stomach’s sake.” And he may well have added, for “the heart’s sake, and the liver’s,” as well.