Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.


Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Researchers find 'no benefit' from anti-oxidant in wine


Claims about the healthy and life-extending properties of a much-hyped ingredient in red wine and chocolate are unfounded, research suggests.

The anti-oxidant resveratrol, found in dark chocolate, red wine, and berries, has no significant impact on life-span, heart disease or cancer, according to US researchers.

“The benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs”

Richard Semba

As a result, they believe it cannot explain the “French Paradox” − the low incidence of heart disease suffered by people in France, despite a diet laden with cholesterol and saturated fat.

Other, as-yet unidentified, plant compounds might be conferring health benefits associated with their diet, according to the study authors.

Lead researcher Professor Richard Semba, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said: “The story of resveratrol turns out to be another case where you get a lot of hype about health benefits that doesn’t stand the test of time.

Johns Hopkins University

Richard Semba

“The thinking was that certain foods are good for you because they contain resveratrol,” he said. “We didn’t find that at all.”

Belief in the health-giving properties of resveratrol has led to a plethora of supplements containing the compound and the promotion of diets based on boosting its consumption.

Previous research has shown that resveratrol has an anti-inflammatory effect and can improve the health and lifespan of mice.

At the molecular level it mimics the effects of calorie restriction, which is known to lengthen the lives of some animals but not humans.

Some preliminary evidence also suggests that the compound could help prevent cancer and reduce the stiffness of arteries in older women. But there is little real-world data to support links between resveratrol intake and improved human health, the researchers point out.

The new research involved 783 Italians aged 65 and over who were participants in the Ageing in the Chianti Region study from 1998 to 2009.

Regular urine tests were carried out to look for breakdown products of resveratrol and see if their levels were associated with reduced cancer, heart disease and death rates.

'No benefit' from wine ingredient

None of those taking part were taking resveratrol supplements, so they had to obtain the compound from their diet. The volunteers came from two villages in Tuscany where few people use supplements and the consumption of red wine is a part of life.

During the nine-year follow-up period, 268 (34.3%) of participants died and 27.2% of those free of heart disease at the start of the study developed the condition.

Of the 734 men and women who had no signs of cancer at enrolment, 4.6% were later diagnosed with the disease.

No significant association was seen between urine resveratrol levels and the likelihood of participants developing heart disease or cancer, dying, or bearing markers of chronic inflammation.

Despite the negative result, wine buffs and lovers of dark chocolate should not lose heart, said the researchers, whose findings are published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

“It’s just that the benefits, if they are there, must come from other polyphenols or substances found in those foodstuffs,” Professor Semba said.

“These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol,” he added.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Never mind, I'm going to carry on testing, just in case

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Agree with above. The French have an altogether healthier lifestyle. They eat far more fruit and veg, incorporate it in their cooking far more than we do, and have less processed food.
    I read once that most French women rarely eat in the evening, unless they are going out for a meal, and rarely stuff themselves in front of the tv.
    Ah well, at least our TV is better than theirs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | 14-May-2014 1:22 pm

    French women often have looks to die for. However, their TV is much better than yours!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Drat, now there is no excuse to drink red wine. one can hardly say it is because one enjoys it! How will it was in old peoples' homes and hospitals if it can no longer be justified?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • typo above, should have read:

    "How will it wash..."

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Wont make a blind bit of difference. People use alcohol as an escape from reality-all their worries and troubles forgotten for a short time but then the drink brings with it more troubles- stupor, falls, disgraceful behaviour, often fights and unwanted pregnancy. "Wine is a mocker" leave it alone

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • sally carson | 31-May-2014 4:24 pm

    try telling your fellow Europeans in the wine grown areas that!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.