Resveratrol in red wine: friend or foe?

Dr. Cindy Haines Health Guide
  • In the media spotlight recently has been research on resveratrol. What we were told last month was that a "miracle" of health benefits accompanies the ingredient. We are now being told, eh—maybe not so much.


    You may have heard resveratrol referred to as the "red wine compound.” It has been touted as an amazing antioxidant - good for your heart, helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces the "bad" LDL cholesterol and prevents blood clots (among other super-power characteristics). Resveratrol has been reported to bring many of the same benefits that you'd get from regular exercise.


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    The plot thickens with a recent study telling us that resveratrol could potentially negate the effects of all that hard work we are doing in our exercise regimens. But before we go off making any absolute condemnations - let's consider a few facts:

    1. This recent study included a small group of elderly men (over the age of 65).
    2. Let me repeat that the study was small: 27 men in total.
    3. The men were NOT drinking red wine or ingesting naturally found resveratrol at all; rather, they were given resveratrol in supplement form.

    The researchers found that while exercise was shown to improve cardiovascular health, the resveratrol supplement appeared to block the effects. At the end of the studied exercise period, the placebo group had a 45 percent greater increase in the oxygen delivered to muscles during exercise versus those in the resveratrol group. Blood pressure was also lowered, as were levels of a clot-related compound called prostacyclin, in the placebo group. None of these positive health effects were seen in the resveratrol group.


    So here is my take on the findings:


    First of all, we need more research to reach any definitive conclusion about the good, the bad or the ugly about resveratrol and how we should be ingesting it. In the meantime, we should not expect to enjoy miracles from any kind of "miracle pill" or supplement. Why are we even "supplementing" ourselves at all? It would make more sense to me if we were supplementing to try and optimize an already healthy lifestyle - but we so often reach for supplements to substitute for the real thing. We should expect that the old "tried and true" healthy lifestyle behaviors we know we should be doing are what we should be doing to reap the rewards of better health.


    A healthier diet, including resveratrol-rich red grapes, blueberries, pistachios or red wine, regular exercise and quality sleep are always going to be what THIS doctor orders.





    Gliemann, Lasse, Jakob F. Schmidt, Jesper Olesen, Rasmus S. Biensø, Sebastian L. Peronard, Simon U. Grandjean, Stefan P. Mortensen, Michael Nyberg, Jens Bangsbo, Henriette Pilegaard, and Ylva Hellsten. "Resveratrol Blunts the Positive Effects of Exercise Training on Cardiovascular Health in Aged Men." The Journal of Physiology (2013): n. pag. 22 July 2013. Web. 19 Aug. 2013. <>.


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    Ledford, Heidi. "Red Wine's Link to Health Gains Support." Nature (2013): n. pag. Nature Publishing Group. Web. 7 Mar. 2013.



    For even more tips on how to get better health and need the health care system less, check out: The New Prescription: How to Get the Best Health Care in a Broken System by Dr. Cynthia D. Haines, M.D. (Dr. Cindy Haines) and Eric Metcalf, M.P.H. This is a book about getting what you really want: better health on your own terms. More medical care doesn’t mean better health. Dr. Haines and Metcalf reveal some of the most egregious problems with a medical system gone awry, opening readers’ eyes to how to better navigate the changes underway. Using solid research, insiders’ insights, and patient anecdotes, they offer cost-effective and potentially life-saving ways to get more out of health care while using less of it.


Published On: August 19, 2013