Red Wine May Be Healthier Than You Think
Researchers and wine geeks alike have long touted the health benefits of red wine. And now more research has uncovered a host of new molecules that may increase those benefits.
Recent studies by chemists at the University of British Colombia and the University of Adelaide discovered 23 previously unknown molecules in extracts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. These new molecules are in the family of stilbenoids, a type of polyphenol, the group of chemicals in wine that scientists believe help fight heart disease and cancer. Though previous analyses of red wine have found almost two dozen other stilbenoids, which reside mostly in grape skins, these most recent discoveries were present in lower amounts and thus escaped detection. Until now.
The link between red wine, stilbenoids and health benefits is antioxidants, which stilbenoids release during the wine-making process. A substantial body of research confirms that these antioxidants have several properities that help fight coronary artery disease—lowering so-called “bad cholesterol,” increasing “good cholesterol” and reducing blood clotting. One particular antioxidant—resveratrol—is thought to inhibit the development of some cancerous tumors, as well as aid in the treatment of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
According to studies at the University of California at Davis, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Syrah and Pinot Noir are highest in antioxidants, followed by Merlot and Zinfandel. White wines, however. . . Eh, not so much.
Though years of research will be necessary to confirm the structure and health benefits of the antioxidants in this latest batch of stilbenoids, researchers are excited about their potential. Quoted in The Wine Spectator, UBC chemistry department head and study author Cedric Saucier said, “We’ve discovered new cousins of resveratrol. We hope that the antioxidants will delay chronic diseases in humans: cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, cancer. That’s the hope.”