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Red Wine Extract Flies Off Shelves

Monday, November 6, 2006

Until last week, not too many people had come around Cash Grocer Natural Foods in Alexandria asking for resveratrol.

"It was not something you carry a lot of," store proprietor Peggy Kleysteuber said. She had two bottles in stock.

Then on Wednesday came news of a study co-authored by researchers from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health that found resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, extended the life and improved the health of middle-aged, overweight mice.

Never mind that the mice consumed far more resveratrol than any humans could imbibe with their wine, even on a cabernet bender -- about 300 times more. Or that there's no evidence so far that resveratrol in supplements extends human life.

Soon Cash Grocer had sold the resveratrol it had, and the phone was ringing with requests. The store couldn't get more from its distributors, who were also inundated with orders, and started a waiting list.

Red wine has long been seen as a factor in the "French paradox," a reference to the uniquely Gallic ability to stay healthy despite a diet rich in brie, pâté and the fruits of the vine. (One resveratrol supplement is actually named "French Parad'ox.")

Resveratrol supplements have been on the market for 30 years, said Mark Becker, spokesman for Los Angeles-based Jarrow Formulas, one of several natural supplement makers that sells resveratrol. It was never a big seller, he said, more of an unglamorous staple like vitamin C.

Jarrow is used to spikes in demand for specific products, like the one provoked last year by a story in Women's World magazine touting coconut oil as a weight-loss aid. Resveratrol, he said, is just another fad.

"I give it a month," he said.

-- Annys Shin

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