An antioxidant found in wine and chocolate may not be linked to improved health as was once claimed. A new study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine revealed the compound – called resveratrol – was not associated with less inflammation, cardiovascular disease or cancer or with increased longevity among a group of elderly Italians.
Past studies had found that resveratrol, which is naturally present in certain fruits and vegetables, has properties that may benefit people’s health. But there was little evidence on the compound’s effect on a large population.
For the new study, researchers used data from 783 Italians who were tracked starting in 1998, when they were at least 65 years old. All were still living within their communities at that time.
The participants were examined and asked to complete a questionnaire about their diets. Urine samples were also collected from people in the study to measure levels of broken-down resveratrol.
Just over one-third of the participants died during the next nine years. About five percent were diagnosed with cancer and 27 percent of those that didn’t initially have heart disease developed it during the study.
The researchers found there were no differences in rates of death, heart disease or cancer or in amount of inflammation between people who started out with high and low levels of metabolized resveratrol in their urine.
Although resveratrol levels were only measured once, diet was assessed every three years via questionnaire and didn’t change much during the study - so the researchers assume resveratrol in the urine stayed somewhat consistent as well.
The findings suggest that resveratrol consumed in Western diets in older adults does not have a substantial influence on inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or longevity, the scientists say.
But experts don’t expect the amount of resveratrol found in a normal diet to have a detectable effect on health.
However that doesn’t mean red grapes shouldn’t be part of a healthy diet along with wine and chocolate - in moderation.
Source: JAMA Internal Medicine, online May 12, 2014.
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