The Secret Behind a Key Ingredient of Red Wine Revealed

Scientists say the chemical may pave the way for medicines that combat cancer and diabetes.

By: Melissa Romero

A chemical in red wine could help combat certain diseases. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user geishaboy500.

Time to crack open the Pinot—scientists say they’ve discovered the health secret to a main ingredient in red wine.

Resveratrol, a chemical found in grapes, peanuts, and certain plants, has long been touted as a potential powerhouse in combatting diabetes, inflammation, and cancer. But proven research has been slim to none—until now.

In a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, scientists found out how resveratrol confers its benefits. The chemical inhibits certain types of protein called phosphodiesterases (PDEs), which help regulate cell energy. It was previously thought that resveratrol activated a protein called sirtuin 1.

After giving mice a drug that’s known to inhibit PDE proteins, scientists found that it produced all of the chemical reactions associated with resveratrol, including improving glucose tolerance, increasing physical endurance, and preventing diet-induced obesity.

The study’s results may lead to the development of resveratrol-based medicines, which has been the hope of pharmaceutical companies for quite some time. However, lead study author Dr. Jay H. Chung says that in addition to PDEs, resveratrol causes chemical reactions with other types of proteins, potentially leading to “not-yet-known toxicities [. . . ] with long-term use.”

And while drinking red wine in moderation has its perks, Chung says you’d have to drink 667 bottles of red wine to experience the true health benefits of resveratrol. Talk about a hangover.

To read the full study, click here.