Researchers: Red Wine Compound May Not Prolong Life

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 21 2012 4:59 PM

Researchers: Red Wine Compound May Not Prolong Life

Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, may not prolong life
Resveratrol, which is found in red wine, may not prolong life

Photo by David Silverman/Getty Images

So much for toasting to your health. A meta-analysis published yesterday in Biology Letters casts doubt on the claim that resveratrol, which is found in the skin of red grapes and therefore red wine, may help you lead a better life.

Researchers from New Zealand’s University of Otago performed a meta-analysis of 19 studies that looked at whether resveratrol extended life in six species: yeast, nematodes, mice, fruitflies, Mexican fruitflies, and turquoise killifish. They found that at first glance, resveratrol seemed on aggregate to delay death. But it turns out that the effect was pronounced only in yeast, turquoise killifish, and nematodes—basically, species that are less applicable to human beings. (Killifish, for instance, have a shorter lifespan than other similar fish—so it might be easier to make them live longer.) Mice and Mexican fruitflies’ longevity were “largely unaffected.”

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Studies looking at resveratrol’s impact on longevity have yet to be carried out on humans, and the researchers from the meta-analysis are reserving judgment on the ultimate result. But co-author Katie L. Hector told me in an email that the takeaway here is that people should be cautious of resveratrol health supplements sold with the promise—implied or explicit—of prolonging life. “[T]here just isn't enough proof behind these marketing campaigns. I think the take home message from our research is that people need to consider all the evidence, and consider its source, before they invest their hard-earned money,” she writes.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies.