Ah, resveratrol…the magic bullet that was touted as having the ability to cure about anything just a few years ago. It’s a naturally occuring phytochemical that several plants produce in response to an injury, a chemical band-aid for the plants that make it. It’s present in grapes, wines, apples, raspberries, blueberries, pistachios, plums, peanuts and many other plants that are considered medicinal. It is believed to have properties that can protect the heart, prevent certain cancers and even extend the lifespan of some of the lower organisms. It is a potent free radical scavenger which means that it can destroy “bad” cells in the human body. It’s been discussed as having the ability to protect nerve cells and prevent diabetes. There was even some publicity that indicated that it could mitigate the negative effects of the unhealthy lifestyle that results from high caloric intake. The problem with all this is simply that most of it has never been proven to be true. There are not proper clinical trials to substantiate most of these claims. (1) All of this theorizing has resulted in a culture of increased alcohol consumption, which carries it’s own significant health risks including the obvious increased caloric intake. With increased calories comes an abundance of health problems and mobility issues that can negatively impact your life.
The proposed therapeutic dose of resveratrol is 1 gram per day. A whopping 31.7 Liters of red wine is equal to 0.2 milligrams per day uptake. So you can see here that if resveratrol is the cure-all that some believe it to be, it would take much more than anyone could possibly consume in red wine to supply the therepeutic dosage. The amount that you can absorb from this large amount of red wine is 5000 times less than the amount believed to be medicinal. (2) It is not possible to get the amount that is considered therapeutic from food and drink. While the foods that contain resveratrol can be a part of a healthy diet, you will never get those magic bullet benefits from what you eat and drink.
So, What’s The Hype?
Resveratrol has been rumored to protect against the negative effects of drug-induced cardio toxicity. It’s believed to be good for your heart. While there are some small studies that may indicate that it can positively influence the outcome in a breast cancer diagnosis, increased weight is a risk factor in this insidious disease, so where do the benefits of the added calories from wine consumption overtake the risks? There have been reports of resveratrol positively impacting bone loss and osteoarthritis. If you choose to get your resveratrol from a non-calorie source such as a supplement prescribed by your doctor then you won’t have to be concerned about those extra calories just giving you more heft to carry around that can cause certain mobility problems. Extra weight will always aggravate arthritis. A positive influence on the pancreas was noted to improve glucose homeostasis and decrease insulin resistance. Again, these effects are observed from a therapeutic dosage, not the amount that you can get in your diet. There is some evidence that therapeutic doses of resveratrol have the ability to protect the kidneys from fibrosis and drug toxicity. Resveratrol has been reported to protect the eyes from the damage that can be caused from diabetes. It has even been reported to be good for the reproductive system in both men and women. It has been observed to have suppressed the growth of lung tumors in mice. It is believed to protect the nervous system, your brain, against damage such as the loss of the myelin sheath. While the list of possible benefits of a therapeutic dose of resveratrol is quite impressive, it’s very hard to ingest this amount of resveratrol any way except through a good supplement and these claims are not adequately substantiated to warrant supplementation in everyone. This is an issue to be considered with your doctor. Random supplementation of poor quality supplements can be dangerous.
Benefits of Alcohol?
The American Heart Association and National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute don’t recommend that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. (3) The negative risks outweigh any possible benefits for most people. If you already drink red wine, or some other form of alcohol, only one drink per day for women, or men over 65, should be allowed. Men aged 65 and younger can usually safely drink up to two drinks per day. A drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits. We never advocate drinking alcohol due to the empty calories and the addictive potential of this sneaky substance. If you do drink, these should be your guidelines.
In many weight control programs, alcohol is categorized with desserts due to the fact that these calories are considered a mere indulgence. Since the serving size and recommendations for the number of drinks allowed in a day are as sparse as they are, there is very little beneficial nutrition to be derived from most alcoholic drinks. Occasionally healthy mixers are incorporated, but for the most part, alcohol is more of a drug than a food, relatively void of good nutrition in the recommended serving allowances. If you have extra calories to use then you might possibly get away with a bit of alcohol on occasion but if you are a serious athlete, intent on increasing your fitness and muscle mass, you would be wise to spend your calories on foods that will build and nourish your body.
While resveratrol is deemed to have health benefits, adequate clinical trials have not been performed to prove all of the claims that have been made. It’s impossible to get what is considered a therapeutic dose through food and drink. While a small amount of alcohol can be safely consumed by some people, there is always the possibility of addiction when you ingest any addictive substance. At it’s best, it’s still empty calories. If you are interested in the benefits of resveratrol, consult your doctor about the possibility of supplementation. Even then, it’s still very difficult to get therapeutic doses that you can absorb and utilize in most supplements. As always, your most direct route to good health is nutritionally dense foods that are low on the glycemic index. They will nourish you for the long run and support your fitness goals and after all, the long run is what counts. How long will it take to get fit? The rest of your life. Get going, with your doctor’s permission, of course.