Are Wine and Chocolate Good for You?

At Tuesday’s New York Academy of Sciences event, “The Science Behind the Hype: Resveratrol in Wine and Chocolate,” many audience members (myself included) waited in eager anticipation to find out if our dark chocolate addictions and penchant for red wine could possibly make us live healthier and longer lives. Joseph Baur, Ph.D., the scientific presenter for the evening, gave us the good and the bad news.

The good: Thus far resveratrol, a natural compound found in red wine and dark chocolate, has yielded many promising results on the basic research level. Baur, who has specifically studied its effect on obese mice, has found that, like a calorie-restricted diet, resveratrol delays disease and improves lifespan.

The bad: Don’t start stocking up on red wine just yet. As I reported in my World Science Festival blog in 2008, it takes a lot of wine to equal the doses that scientists are testing. And by a lot, I mean an obscene amount. To give you an idea, Baur explained that most human clinical trials are using 5-gram supplements of resveratrol, yet there is less than 5 milligrams of resveratrol in a bottle of wine. So, if resveratrol continues to show positive results and is approved by the FDA as a supplement, we’ll find ourselves taking a pill rather than consuming decadent fare.

In terms of the research, Baur’s search on ClinicalTrials.gov turned up 46 current human clinical trials involving resveratrol. Scientists are testing the compound to treat a range of diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cancer, brain injuries, and even cellulite. Most of these are ongoing and little data has been reported on human trials thus far, although Baur mentioned one on cognition, one on blood pressure in overweight individuals, and another on energy metabolism and metabolic profile in obese humans. Overall, Baur concluded that resveratrol studies have shown promising results, but many studies have been small and longer-term studies are needed.

–Ann L. Whitman

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