May 14, 2014
NEW YORK — A compound found in wine and chocolate may not be linked to improved health as was once claimed, a new study has showed, although more research is needed.
The compound resveratrol was not associated with less inflammation, cardiovascular disease or cancer, or with increased longevity among a group of elderly Italians, researchers have found.
“This is contradictory to all the hype that we typically hear from the popular arena,” said Dr Richard Semba, the study’s lead author from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Previous studies had found that resveratrol, a compound naturally present in certain fruits and vegetables, has properties that may benefit people’s health, Dr Semba and his colleagues wrote in medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine. But there was little evidence on the compound’s effect on a large population, they added.
Research on resveratrol hit a snag in 2012, when one of the field’s leading researchers was accused of fabricating data. For the new study, Dr Semba and his colleagues used data from 783 Italians who were tracked starting in 1998, when they were at least 65 years old. All were living within their communities at the time.
The participants were examined and asked to complete a questionnaire about their diets. Urine samples were also collected to measure levels of broken-down resveratrol.
Just more than one-third of the participants died during the following nine years. About 5 per cent were diagnosed with cancer and 27 per cent of those who did not initially have heart disease developed it during the study. The researchers found that there were no differences in rates of death, heart disease or cancer or in the amount of inflammation between people who started out with high and low levels of broken-down resveratrol in their urine.
Although resveratrol levels were measured only once, Dr Semba said the participants’ diets were assessed every three years via a questionnaire, which showed they did not change much during the study — so the researchers assumed that resveratrol in the urine stayed somewhat consistent as well.
“This study suggests that dietary resveratrol from Western diets in community-dwelling older adults does not have a substantial influence on inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer or longevity,” they wrote.
Dr Teresa Fung, a nutrition researcher at Simmons College in Boston who was not involved in the new study, said she was not surprised by its findings. She told Reuters Health she would not expect the amount of resveratrol found in a normal diet to have a detectable effect on health.
“I don’t see evidence that we should go after this by drinking wine, eating grapes or anything like that,” she said, adding that grapes could still be part of a healthy diet along with wine and chocolate — in moderation.
Dr Fung also said there might be some detectable health effects from much larger doses of resveratrol, but this remains to be seen. “Even at pharmaceutical doses, those studies aren’t trending in one direction or another.” REUTERS
Health and Wellness articles by Chan Joon Yee