- How the good things in life can be even better
- Why science isn’t all bad
- Why this really can make a huge difference to health for all of us
Today I have some fantastic news for those of you with a penchant for red wine.
It turns out that a small glass a day is good for you as it can lower blood pressure for those at risk according to a study published in 20201.
So that’s great!
But I have even better news for those who like this story but are either trying to avoid the excess of lockdown or simply don’t like Bacchus’ produce.
But first let me tell you a little more about the red wine story.
You see it baffled scientists for many years that our French cousins liked their rich cheeses, cream sauces and plenty of good fatty meat yet the levels of cardiovascular problems were far below those on these shores.
In addition, the population of Gaul suffered lower incidence of diabetes, Alzheimer’s and even cancer yet they were happy to continue eating sugary pastries, cream cakes and not adverse to a packet of Gauloises cigarettes a day.
This led to a lot of consternation amongst those who wanted to prove that high fat diets were the root of all health evil and they wailed and gnashed their teeth about what became known as the French Paradox.
Theories about the genetic makeup of the people, the nature of soils and even an illusion created by the French authority’s inability to collect data were all postulated as the reason, but it seems a potential answer was one which threw the fledgling nutritionists into even more of a quandary.
In 1991 a team working in the USA noticed that the population of France drank more red wine than anyone else and they looked at whether this might be the reason behind the difference. To their surprise they discovered a constituent of this beloved beverage which held the key.
Why you’ve got to love science
An extract from wine was concentrated and from it a specific compound was identified which when used in animal studies showed that it could have a remarkable effect on metabolism, blood flow and even cancer development. The compound is called Resveratrol.
This discovery caused quite a bit of a stir and was aired in an episode of 60 Minutes (a US TV programme) causing a massive increase in the sale of red wine throughout the Americas.
Resveratrol became a byword for health and many supplement manufacturers began to use extracts of grapes to try to improve the bioavailability of this substance, which was where they found a problem.
You see, whilst the Resveratrol in wine is really good for us, it is also in relatively small amounts and having created such a storm it rapidly became clear that this wasn’t the whole reason for the French Paradox, which was a shame as it would have been great to get red wine on prescription.
Trying to concentrate the compound from grapes was very tricky as it is only to be found in the skins and in minute quantities in the seeds. The flesh is no use at all and this left the natural remedy movement in a bit of a fix.
They had discovered this amazing health tonic but now couldn’t figure out how to get it to the public in sufficient quantities and with controlled quality.
In the past we have tried to source Grape Seed Extract but have always been frustrated to find that supply was limited and unreliable purely because grape growers can make more money from wine making than from Resveratrol extraction – and I wasn’t about to demand that they stopped making wine!
A Japanese weed provides the answers
The science behind using Resveratrol was clear and in over 100 published studies in the last ten years a number of really important health benefits have been noted and proven including:
- Protecting the endothelial lining of your arteries, so blood flows as it should.
- Reducing oxidative stress, which prevents premature aging of cells and keeps them active.
- Blocking the production of inflammatory agents, preventing pain associated with common joint and muscle conditions such as arthritis.
- Supporting cells that improve mental function, and promoting oral/dental health.
- Suppressing the development of malignant cells, by preventing cancer cell replication and enhancing cancer cell death in a variety of laboratory cell culture studies.
- Improving muscle health, by reducing muscle wasting associated with diabetes and cancer.
The list is really impressive and shows how Resveratrol can affect cellular function at many levels and as such can make a contribution to health in many ways, in fact it can be considered as a universal tonic.
The problem comes from trying to find a source which is reliable, plentiful and rich in Resveratrol – and that is where a virulent garden weed plays its part.
This scourge of hedgerows and open spaces in the UK has become a real problem for gardeners and local authorities to control as it is very aggressive in its growing habits and will colonise huge areas preventing anything else from growing.
But, scientists discovered that its roots are an incredible source of Resveratrol which it uses to help protect itself from toxins in the environment it grows in and this helps it become resistant to many commonly used herbicides.
So, we can use this rampant pest as a really useful source of the Resveratrol without expensive processes to recover it, and safe in the knowledge that we are helping rid the UK of a damaging plant.
Truly a win-win scenario if ever I heard one, with the added benefit that I can still enjoy a glass of red wine safe in the knowledge that it contains a healthy compound as well as being able to confound nutritionists… all is well!
1 Weaver, S. R., Rendeiro, C., McGettrick, H. M., Philp, A., & Lucas, S. J. (2020). Fine wine or sour grapes? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the impact of red wine polyphenols on vascular health. European journal of nutrition, 1-28.