Scientists believe that the resveratrol levels in wine directly relates to the health benefits that wine has to offer.
What Is Resveratrol?
Not to get too scientific, resveratrol is a phytoalexin-basically a type of anti-biotic produced by plants under certain conditions. Resveratrol is found in the skin of red grapes and is a constituent of red wine. All the hype surrounding this strange substance originated from the premise that it is the key to why red wine is healthy for your diet. But the jury is still out if resveratrol alone is responsible for the health benefits wine offers.
Resveratrol levels in Wine = French Paradox?
It's true that there are resveratrol levels in wine, but apparently not in sufficient amounts to explain the "French paradox"-that the incidence of coronary heart disease is relatively low in southern France despite high, dietary intake of saturated fats.
The idea behind the French paradox is that French people overall drink more wine per capita than almost any other country (except Luxembourg) but also have a diet very high in fats. The French love their cheeses, oysters, seafood, pâtés, etc. If you look at the French population overall you see folks who are not overweight, their cholesterol is in check and their mortality rate is very low. Thus, the French paradox and red wine benefits.
How Much Is Required?
The issue with resveratrol is that it has been found to reduce the chance of heart disease and cancer - but not at the levels found in a glass of wine. The health benefits of resveratrol happen in higher doses (three to five grams) - nowhere near the level found in wine alone. But regardless, recent studies at Harvard University claims resveratrol can extend the life of mice, even when the rodents are dangerously overweight. In human terms, the amounts of resveratrol that were used to produce the amazing benefits in mice would require drinking hundreds-or even thousands-of glasses of wine per day. Now that's a lot of wine and not humanly possible (and quite the expensive habit!)
Currently, wine bottles must have a government warning on the label stating that pregnant women shouldn't drink, amongst other warnings. There are folks in Congress who want to actually put health benefits on the label too. The studies of the health benefits in wine is key to actually make this happen. The more we learn about not only resveratrol, but all factors that help with the health benefits, the closer we get to have solid objective evidence that red wine indeed is part of a healthy diet. You will probably see the wine-producing states take the lead on this one.
More Studies Needed
Now the good news is that if you're a Pinot Noir fan, that wine varietal has the highest levels of resveratrol found in ANY type of wine. So you fans of Sideways have some other reasons to be fans of Pinot. But if it's not resveratrol that is responsible for the "French paradox," what is? Many studies are going on right now at U.C. Davis in regards to resveratrol and other substances found in wine. Some of the other possibilities being studied include tannin levels and acidity levels, among others. Perhaps it is these things combined? With so much attention on the benefits of red wine, there are sure to be new scientific discoveries constantly.