A new study just threw water on the notion that compounds called resveratrols can reduce the chances you’ll get heart disease, cancer, suffer from inflammatory diseases, or die premturely. Resveratrol is found in the skins of red grapes (and so, in red wine), blueberries (probably the skins), peanuts (probably the red skins), and dark chocolate.
Here’s the study:
Resveratrol Levels And All-Cause Mortality In Older Community-Dwelling Adults, JAMA Internal Medicine, 12 May 2014
Here’s the press release:
Resveratrol in Red Wine, Chocolate, Grapes Not Associated With Improved Health, 12 May 2014
Participants were a group of 783 men and women, 65 or older, from two Italian villages near Tuscany (lucky!). They ate their normal diet. The researchers checked their urine for break-down products of resveratrol. Those that had the most didn’t fare any differently than those that had the least.
“Conclusion: In older community-dwelling adults, total urinary resveratrol metabolite concentration was not associated with inflammatory markers, cardiovascular disease, or cancer or predictive of all-cause mortality.”
The only thing you can say from this study is that one compound – resveratrol – consumed in foods, does not reduce disease risk or help you live longer. It says nothing about red wine in general, or about blueberries or peanuts or chocolate or any other resveratrol-containing foods, or about any compounds, like polyphenols, in any other food.
This study falls under the heading of nutritionism … an assumption that a food’s worth can be defined by the sum of its individual components. First of all, we don’t know all the components in foods. Even if we did, we don’t know how they interact with each other, or with our own body chemistry. Michael Pollan put it well when he said that food’s nutritional value is “more than the sum of its parts.”
We’re not going to live longer or healthier because of one molecule in a handful of foods. That’s, like, magic. You have to look at the whole diet.