Red Wine: Not as Healthy as We Thought

We’ve heard it before—drinking red wine is healthy for you, right? Scientists have long theorized that resveratrol, which is found in red wine, is partly responsible for the health benefits of drinking it. However, the health benefits of resveratrol have come under the microscope.

In 2008, drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline snapped up Harvard Medical School’s David Sinclair’s company Sirtris for $720 million. The scientists at the company had been researching a family of genes called sirtuins, which were thought to extend life span. In 2003, scientists found that sirtuin was actually activated by polyphenols. One of the polyphenols was resveratrol. When testing it on worms, fruit flies and yeast, it seemed to extend life span.

However, after Glaxo acquired the company and started testing an experimental drug SRT501 based on resveratrol, in humans, the drug was found to only be minimally effective.

Researchers say the average glass of red wine contains many types of polyphenolic compounds—not just resveratrol. Creating drugs that contain resveratrol for health benefits is a challenge because the high doses of the compound that have been shown to be beneficial in animals are impractical to use in human studies.

Glaxo is shelving the drug trials for now, but says it will move forward with focusing efforts on synthetic molecules that activate the same proteins inside cells that resvertrol activates but have no chemical relationship to SRT501.

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