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Red wine drinkers may have just lost their bragging rights

Resveratrol failed to promote longevity among Italians who ate a diet rich in the antioxidant, researchers said.

A study of 783 men and women ages 65 and older found they didn’t live longer and were just as likely to develop heart disease and cancer as those who consumed less resveratrol.

The study, led by Richard Semba, an ophthalmologist from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, followed the participants from two villages in Tuscany for nine years.

Previous laboratory studies have suggested that resveratrol, also found in grapes, peanuts and chocolate, might have unique benefits that could help slow aging or keep cells healthy. Still, a lack of evidence that it helps humans has prevented recommendations for the antioxidant’s use in keeping disease at bay. In 2010, GlaxoSmithKline dropped development of a drug designed to mimic resveratrol because it failed to help cancer patients.

“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,” the researchers wrote in the paper just published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

In the study, researchers used urine metabolite levels to measure resveratrol consumption in the group of Italians. Semba said the findings suggest something else may be at work besides resveratrol, as previous studies have shown a link between wine and chocolate and lower inflammation, which can hurt the heart.

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

Other as-yet unidentified plant compounds might be conferring health benefits associated with their diet, he 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.

Belief in the properties of resveratrol has led to a plethora of supplements containing the compound.

 Journal Reference:

JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 12, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.1582. 

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