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Red Wine Compound Helps Regulate Insulin, Research Finds

Even at relatively low doses, resveratrol may help stave off the onset of type 2 diabetes

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: October 26, 2007

Resveratrol, a naturally occurring compound in red wine, may help prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes, according to research conducted at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. In the study, published in this month's issue of the journal Cell Metabolism, the scientists found that mice, when given resveratrol, had optimized insulin production and were better able to metabolize glucose. The study's authors believe that the findings could lead to a resveratrol-driven treatment of diabetes, which currently affects more than 170 million people worldwide.

According to the study, resveratrol has been shown to activate an enzyme in humans called Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1), which is thought to have myriad benefits. Through that pathway, in lab experiments, resveratrol has been found to boost the endurance of mice and limit weight gain. "We found SIRT1 improves insulin sensitivity, especially under insulin-resistant conditions," said Qiwei Zhai, the researcher who led the study at the Institute for Nutritional Sciences at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. "Furthermore, we found that resveratrol, at a very low dose compared with many previous studies, improves insulin sensitivity via SIRT1."

In order to determine if SIRT1 may be related to the onset of type 2 diabetes, the scientists separated mice into four groups of eight. One group was fed a standard diet with water, and another a high-fat diet. The third and fourth groups were fed the same as groups 1 and 2, respectively, but with low doses of resveratrol added to their diets. All the mice were already in the early stages of diabetes.

After 16 weeks, the ability of the mice to properly metabolize sugar was examined with blood tests. When resveratrol was included in the diet, the mice digested glucose favorably. For example, after 60 minutes of eating, the mice on resveratrol had healthy blood-sugar levels. But the mice on a high-fat diet, without resveratrol, had much higher blood-sugar levels.

However, the scientists warned that even though the lowest doses of resveratrol used in the experiment—2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day—were effective in regulating mouse metabolism, humans are unlikely to get a similar benefit from drinking red wine. "According to our findings, people might need to drink about 3 liters of red wine each day to get sufficient resveratrol, about 15 milligrams, for [similar] biological effects," said Zhai.

Nevertheless, other studies examining the direct ingestion of resveratrol have shown positive results. University of Alabama researchers examining the risk of prostate cancer found that mice which ate resveratrol supplements in addition to their normal diet, showed a reduced risk of prostate cancer.

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