Red Wine and Dark Chocolate Won’t Extend Your Life, Study Says

By Paul Gaita 05/16/14

The magical, life-saving compound may not be so magical or life-saving following a study that showed resveratrol had no significant effect on health or mortality rates.

red wine glass.jpg
Not so fast. Shutterstock

Bad news for the gourmand. A new study shows that resveratrol, the compound found in red wine, dark chocolate, and grapes, is not the disease-fighting, life-saving magic bullet that has been hailed by various alternative health organizations and pharmaceutical companies over the years.

Research conducted by medical professionals and educators in America and Europe and published in JAMA Internal Medicine appears to put the “French paradox” – which attributes the low incidence of coronary heart disease in France to regular consumption of resveratrol in red wine – into question by noting that the compound’s presence in Western diets did not have significant impact on health or mortality risk.

The study was conducted on 783 test subjects, all from the Chianti region of Italy and at least 65 years old, who provided a urine sample and dietary surveys over a period of 11 years. At the conclusion of the study, researchers discovered that there were no differences in rates of death, heart disease, or cancer between individuals who showed a high level of resveratrol in their systems and those who showed little or none.

Resveratrol has blossomed into a $30 million industry, thanks in part to research that has suggested the compound offers a wealth of health benefits, including the reversal of issues related to aging. But what the millions of Americans who consume the compound in pill, liquid, and skin cream form – not to mention copious amounts of red wine – may not know is that these positive attributes have been culled from clinical trials conducted solely on animals.

Previous studies appear to support the JAMA study’s findings by stating that there is no evidence to support resveratrol’s beneficial qualities in humans. Does this mean that wine and chocolate lovers should stop consuming their favorites? On the contrary: some research has indicated that chocolate, wine, and berries do appear to have some anti-inflammatory qualities.

But as Dr. Richard D. Samba of Johns Hopkins, who led the study, was quick to note, those elements are most likely due to other polyphones in those items. “These are complex foods, and all we really know from our study is that the benefits are probably not due to resveratrol,” he said.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.