Another Study, Another Reason to Drink Red Wine

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Scientists have found another clue to explain why red wine may be good for you, identifying substances in vin rouge that appear to be associated with increased longevity in parts of France.

Researchers have long been fascinated by the "French paradox" -- the fact that French people tend to have relatively few heart attacks despite a rich diet -- and many studies have suggested that a glass or two of red wine every day is beneficial.

Recently, attention focused on a substance called resveratrol, which research showed could help laboratory mice live longer when taken in high doses. But resveratrol occurs in relatively low levels in wine, meaning people would have to drink hundreds of glasses a day to enjoy any possible benefits.

In the latest research, Roger Corder of Queen Mary's School of Medicine in London and colleagues analyzed various components of red wine. They found that substances called procyanidins appeared to have the most potent beneficial effect on the cells that enable arteries to power the heart.

Moreover, the researchers discovered that levels of procyanidins were highest in red wines produced in southwestern France, where French men tend to live the longest, according to a report in today's issue of the journal Nature.

The winemakers of that region tend to use more traditional techniques in which Tannat grapes are soaked with their seeds longer, boosting the procyanidins.

The research suggests that one or two glasses a day of cabernet sauvignon or other Madiran wines made with similar grapes and methods would be enough to get the health benefits, Corder said.

Procyanidins are also found in dark chocolate, apples and cranberries.

-- Rob Stein

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