Food and Behaviour Research

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22 December 2014 - The Conversation - The compound behind all those stories about red wine being good for you

Mohit Kumar Jolly

If you’re a teetotaller, your friends have likely tried to convince you to taste red wine by swearing on its multiple health benefits. These benefits have been credited to a compound found in red wine: resveratrol. But claims for this compound have been a subject of major debate – while some argue that it can prevent cancer and promote heart health, others say there is no proof.

Resveratrol is a compound produced by certain plants in response to stress, injury, or fungal infection. Its natural function is to ensure the survival of the plant under these harsh conditions, and it has been used as an oriental medicine to treat diseases related to blood vessels and the liver. However, some studies have failed to observe the same “elixir” function. Because of the lack of enough human clinical data and a lack of understanding of how exactly resveratrol might work, the jury has remained out on whether this compound actually does lead to health benefits.

Now, Sajish Matthew and Paul Schimmel at the Scripps Research Institute have taken a key step in addressing this. In a study published in Nature, they explain the mechanism through which resveratrol does have anti-cancer, anti-diabetic and cardio-protective effects. And their findings open up avenues for its use in therapeutics.