A compound in red wine would help age in good health


  • Wine and some other foods contain a natural compound that activates estrogen receptors
  • This compound can potentially replace hormonal treatments that counteract the effects of menopause

What if the French figured it all out? A study supports the theory that a small glass of wine a day could help you age better. In fact, small doses of resveratrol, a natural compound found in peanuts, pistachios, grape skins, red wine, raspberries, or cocoa, could activate estrogen receptors, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports. This steroid hormone is naturally produced by both men and women. While most people have heard of its role in regulating reproduction, it also protects against certain age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s or osteoporosis.

Estrogen receptors activate proteins called sirtuins in the body. The latter are involved in the control of mitochondrial biogenesis, DNA repair and regulation of metabolism. For biologists, sirtuins would be excellent and potential drug targets.

Numerous animal studies have shown that these proteins can extend healthy lifespans by preventing or slowing the onset of disease.says Henry Bayele, PhD in Molecular Biology at University College London, UK. However, the development of effective drug or dietary treatments has been hampered by a lack of consensus about their precise function in body cells.‘ he claims.

“plant estrogens”

To learn more, Bayele and his colleagues exposed liver cells in vitro to various dietary compounds that activate sirtuins: resveratrol and isoflavones such as daidzin, found in soybeans and other legumes. These compounds are collectively referred to as activating dietary sirtuins, or dSTACs.

They then found that in low doses, resveratrol increased sirtuin signaling in cells by mimicking estrogen. However, at high doses, it would decrease sirtuin signaling. But isoliquiritigenin, found in licorice, would be even more effective at activating sirtuins.

Therefore, Henry Bayele believes that dSTACs can be considered “plant estrogens.” They are able to perform functions normally reserved for estrogen and could therefore benefit the brain, liver, skeletal muscles and bones.

The “French Paradox”

This study supports the theory that one glass of red wine a day, no more, promotes good aging. According to Bayele, this could explain the “French paradox”. Certain population groups in France have been shown to have lower rates of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer, despite eating a high-fat diet.

Regular low doses of resveratrol, such as moderate consumption of red wine as part of a healthy diet, should be able to produce the benefits of estrogen. This would apply to both men and women of all ages, but postmenopausal women could benefit the most as they have lower estrogen stores than men of the same age.“, explains Henry Bayele. Ultimately, these results could make it possible to develop alternatives to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to combat the symptoms of menopause, since HRT is known for its serious side effects: it would increase the risk of stroke, heart attack and certain types of cancer.

But before that, clinical studies are needed: the effects of dSTACs on cells in vitro may not reflect their effects on humans, Bayele warns. To put this in perspective, if the body can digest the compounds in the gut, they could be poorly absorbed into the blood. In conclusion, more research is needed to confirm whether people can use dSTACs as an estrogen replacement for healthy aging.

The eternal debate about the daily glass of red wine

This study is not the first to examine the benefits of resveratrol for the body. A previous work on rats, the conclusions of which were published in the journal Boundaries in Physiology, suggested that this compound would be able to sustain the muscular strength of astronauts sent to Mars. “Resveratrol has been shown to preserve bone and muscle mass in rats during full discharge, similar to what it would be like in microgravity on a space flight. Therefore, we hypothesized that a moderate daily dose would also help reduce muscle deconditioning to a degree similar to that observed on Mars.‘ the researchers concluded.

According to other previous work done by the University of New Brunswick (Canada), resveratrol could be a “effective alternative to drugs used to treat people with depression and anxiety disorders“.

The effects of drinking one glass of red wine a day on cardiovascular health have been debated for years. While French researchers showed in 2004 that very modest consumption improved blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and also reduced the risk of certain types of cancer, a British study published in The lancet disputed these findings. According to these scientists, there would be no benefit in drinking a glass of wine every day, quite the opposite. In fact, this habit would increase the risk of stroke by 10-15%.

When in doubt, the National Association for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Addicology recommends “to limit consumption to a maximum of two glasses a day and not to consume alcohol every day”.

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