New Study on Antioxidant Resveratrol in Red Wine found it May Actually UNDO the Effects of Exercise

Steeped in culture and tradition, wine has through the ages, been a symbol of happiness, cheer and celebration, with the quintessential glass of red wine ever present to grace meals and fuel conversations.  What adds to the pleasure of drinking wine is that it has consistently been lauded by health experts to contain a treasure trove of health boosting qualities, almost elevating it to the status of being nothing short of an elixir of life – if consumed in moderate quantities of course. The cardio vascular benefits of red wine have been supposedly attributed to Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes. Other fruits that contain this antioxidant are blueberries, mulberries, cranberries, pistachios and peanuts. Plants are believed to produce resveratrol as a defence against fungi, bacteria and other harmful microbes and also to help tackle lack of nutrition.

The supposed benefits of red wine resveratrol

Scientists have since attributed all the health boosting qualities of wine to this major antioxidant – believing it to be responsible for enhanced cardiovascular health, improved insulin sensitivity, increased immunity and even extended longevity. Resveratrol was thought to trigger genes to activate sirtuins – proteins that heighten resistance to disease and reverse ageing.

Doctors recommended resveratrol rich red wine as a panacea for heart disease and high blood pressure, and it even earned the reputation of “exercise in a bottle” because it protected the body from loss of muscle.

This prompted many people to resort to taking resveratrol supplements, as they wanted to reap the health benefits of the antioxidant without having to consume wine every day. Recent years have therefore seen a steady rise in the sale of resveratrol supplements.

Latest Danish study challenges hitherto established theories about resveratrol

A recent study conducted by the University of Copenhagen has challenged all the assumptions about resveratrol and its health benefits. The study was conducted on 27 healthy men aged of 65 years or so, over a period of two months. Half of the men were given 250 mg of resveratrol/day in supplement form and the other half took a placebo. Both groups were put through a high intensity exercise regimen and the results were carefully monitored. At the end of two months, it was observed that the group that had been ingesting resveratrol supplements seemed to show little or zero benefits of their exercise regimen as opposed to the placebo group that recorded a lower blood pressure and improved cardio vascular health. Turning the tables on all the theories doing the rounds about the benefits of resveratrol, this study in fact suggested that the antioxidant simply effaces all the health benefits that exercise usually bestows. Cardio vascular health is measured by parameters such as ‘high maximal oxygen uptake, and low levels of blood pressure and prostacyclin.’ The men who had been given resveratrol supplements did not show reduced levels of triglycerides or lower blood pressure which are known to be the common benefits of regular exercise.

The researchers also added though that the amount of resveratrol contained in the supplement was much higher than would be found naturally in food or even in wine. A glass of wine contains only 1.5 mg of resveratrol while the supplement contains a dose of 250 mg which is more than 100 times higher.

Scientists who conducted the Danish study however said that the benefits of resveratrol when consumed in its natural form cannot be ruled out as it would then work in combination with other compounds present and would therefore have a different impact on the body.

How Resveratrol supplements affect the body

The supplements of the antioxidant are believed to help eliminate the free radicals accumulated in the body, thus leading to enhanced immunity. Studies conducted on animals have confirmed the role of resveratrol in prevention and repair of cell damage as also in its cancer fighting properties. This conclusion however, cannot be extended to humans for want of any concrete tests.

How Resveratrol supplements affect exercise

Engaging in physical activity induces the body to produce free radicals which can disturb the delicate balance between them and the antioxidants. Although post workout resveratrol supplements could eliminate the free radicals, the Danish study scientists believe that the body actually needs those to recover. This could be part of the reason why the antioxidant supplements negate the positive impact of exercise on the body and are also  believed to have an adverse effect on the immune system.

Side effects of Resveratrol

  • More in depth research is required to fully understand how exactly resveratrol affects the various body tissues and systems. However what we do know is that this antioxidant is chemically similar to estrogen and high doses of its supplement could either boost or block estrogen activity, making it a tricky option for women being treated for cancer of the breast, uterus, ovary, those on oral contraceptives and even those who are trying for a pregnancy.
  • Resveratrol also makes the blood platelets less sticky which could lead to increased blood loss in case of cuts and bruises. It could interfere with other medicines such as aspirin, ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs hence are not suitable for people who are on these medications.

All in all, red wine lovers need not be too perturbed about the findings of this latest study on Resveratrol. You could still down your glass of wine as heartily as ever before as the antioxidant is present only in minute quantities in its natural sources which would in all probability only impact the body for the better. As always it’s the artificial supplements that we need to guard against – this brings us back to LFE’s  motto about eating real, natural fresh food, living healthy and clean and depending as little as possible on anything that is artificial and unnatural.


Lasse Gliemann, Jakob Friis Schmidt, Jesper Olesen, Rasmus Sjørup Biensø et al. Resveratrol Blunts the Positive Effects of Exercise Training on Cardiovascular Health in Aged Men. Journal of Cellular Physiology. 2013. 


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