June 11 (HealthDay News) -- Scientists already knew that drinking red wine in moderation is good for your health; now they are figuring out why.
New research is uncovering the disease-prevention secrets of a polyphenol called resveratrol, one of compounds in red wine that seems to improve health. Although the benefits have been touted for years, researchers weren't sure how polyphenols, and resveratrol in particular, worked in the body.
"The breadth of benefits is remarkable -- cancer prevention, protection of the heart and brain from damage, reducing age-related diseases, such as inflammation, reversing diabetes and obesity, and many more," said Lindsay Brown, an associate professor of the School of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Queensland in Australia and co-author of a study that will appear in the September issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
Brown said scientists are beginning to understand how resveratrol does its work. Possible mechanisms include:
- High doses of the compound may prevent cancer by increasing the process of apoptosis (programmed cell death).
- Low doses improve cardiac health by increasing cellular protection and reducing damage.
- Resveratrol may help remove very reactive oxidants in the body and improve blood supply to cells.
Scientists are also studying how the body absorbs resveratrol into the blood stream, since the compound is largely inactivated in the gut and liver.
"Most of the resveratrol in imbibed red wine does not reach the circulation," Stephen Taylor, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Queensland, said in a journal news release. "Interestingly, absorption via the mucous membranes in the mouth can result in up to around 100 times the blood levels, if done slowly rather than simply gulping it down."
SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, June 2009