The study helped to explain why people in France have a relatively low incidence of heart disease despite a diet rich in saturated fats, a phenomenon known as the "French Paradox." Since then, other studies have shown that polyphenols in red wine, such as resveratrol, have cardioprotective effects, says the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and the National Institutes on Aging reported, for example, that mice fed a high-fat diet plus a daily dose of resveratrol, outlived their counterparts who did not get resveratrol in their diet.
In another recent study, British researchers found that red wines with higher levels of procyanidins, a type of polyphenol, have protective effects on blood vessels.
There's evidence that drinking red wine has other beneficial effects as well. Researchers from the State University of New York at Stony Brook found a 68 percent reduction in the incidence of colorectal cancers and abnormal growths that can become cancerous among red wine drinkers.
And what's good for the body may be medicine for the mind. Early research at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City on the effects of feeding Cabernet Sauvignon to mice suggests that moderate wine consumption may help prevent the sticky plaque build-up in the brain that is characteristic of Alzheimer's disease.
Wine is fine, but what about just plain, old grape juice? Shukitt-Hale and colleagues studied cognitive and motor function using Concord grape juice, another good source of polyphenols. Compared with a placebo, rats that drank 10 percent grape juice showed improvements in brain communication and cognitive performance, while those who consumer 50 percent grape juice exhibited improvements in motor function.
"These findings suggest that, in addition to their know beneficial effect on cancer and heart disease, polyphenolics present in foods may be beneficial in reserving the course of neuronal and behavioral aging," she explains, although she cannot say for sure how these results would apply to human until a human study is conducted.