While some of red wine's health benefits may still be under investigation, new research points to a compound in red wine that might help fight the battle of the bulge. According to a recent Purdue University study, the compound seems to be able to block cellular processes that allow fat cells to develop, opening a door to a potential method to control obesity.
It may sound too good to be true (drinking wine to lose weight?), but Kee-Hong Kim, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science at Purdue University, says the study holds promise. The compound, piceatannol, has a similar chemical structure to resveratrol, which has been linked to many of the health benefits of moderate red wine consumption.
"Recent studies suggested that piceatannol has strong anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer, in certain cancer types, activities," Kim says. "Our study was the first to show a potential beneficial effect of piceatannol in controlling body fat cell development."
Piceatannol isn't just found in red wine either. The compound is present in grapes, grape juice, berries, peanuts, and passion fruit. However, no one source particularly has a lot of piceatannol in it, Kim says.
"While both piceatannol and resveratrol are suggested to be beneficial to health, they exist in low quantities in the fruits mentioned above," he says. "Thus, long-term consumption of these foods or consumption of piceatannol-enriched dietary supplement could help to maintain healthy body weight."
At this stage of the research, the idea of piceatannol resulting in weight-loss is just a hypothesis. Kim is quick to mention that his research was done mainly from a cultured cell study. His next step will be to test piceatannol in animals and humans.
"We are currently working on testing the effect of piceatannol on the mouse model of obesity," Kim says. "We are just about to learn the health benefit of piceatannol, which means more studies in animals and humans are needed to clearly understand the function of piceatannol in obesity and obesity-related health complications, such as type 2 diabetes and heart diseases."
In the meantime, should you start trading in your beer for red wine? As always, moderation is the name of the game. Kim himself has about two to four drinks a week. Current health recommendations for alcohol consumption are one or fewer drinks for women a day and two for men.
"According to The Mayo Clinic, wine, particularly red wine, in moderation, has long been thought to promote health," he says. "This is apparently due to the fact that red wine has greater amount of antioxidants and other bioactive compounds such as resveratrol and now piceatannol. However, the detrimental role of alcohol in health, when consumed in a large amount, should be warned."
Do you drink red wine? Will you trade your usual drink in for red wine, hoping to reap some of piceatannol's suspected health benefits? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.