Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Don't Skip the Gym: Wine is Definitely NOT Better Than Exercise

By now, the media has pounced on new research looking at resveratrol, a compound found in wine, and the comparison of its effects to exercise on different body systems.  Naturally, the running headline is that drinking wine is better for you than going to the gym.  Because that's what we need.  Interested in hearing what the study actually says?  Read on:

Resveratrol is a polyphenol produced by plants as a secondary metabolite.  It's not crucial for plant function, it acts as a defense mechanism against environmental stress.  It's a fairly effective antioxidant, and it has been shown to protect against cardiovascular and metabolic disease.  Resveratrol causes adaptations to the O2 transport system by activating specific molecules in a way that is mimics exercise.  This compound has also been shown to enhance the effects of exercise, suggesting that it affects other molecular pathways that exercise do not.  But, there are other studies that have found that consuming resveratrol can counteract the beneficial effects of exercise in some people.  

The authors of this study, Vernon Dolinsky (University of Manitoba) and Jason Dyck (University of Alberta) wrote an open access review to compare the effects of exercise training and resveratrol consumption on the organs and molecular pathways involved in the O2 transport system.  Here's what they found: overall, the literature suggests that resveratrol provides a similar level of protection against cardiovascular disease in rodents as exercise does.  Both exercise and resveratrol stimulate mitochondrial biogenesis in skeletal and cardiac muscle cells, nitric oxide production, oxidative stress resistance, and anti-inflammatory properties.  In this way, they both induce positive adaptations to the O2 transport system.  They conclude that while resveratrol seems to mimic the effects of exercise in rodents, it is still unclear whether or not resveratrol improves exercise performance.  

The authors specifically state that the current data we have from human trials do not suggest that resveratrol enhances the beneficial effects of alcohol.  That's all the information we have right now about exercise and resveratrol - meaning that headlines like this are a pretty big stretch.  It's also worth mentioning that in resveratrol trials like the ones reviewed by the authors, the amount of resveratrol administered is much higher than the levels you'd find in a glass of wine.  For example, in one human trial, participants were given 250 mg of resveratrol per day (the amount you would find in a supplement), while in a glass of wine, you might find 0.2-2 mg of resveratrol.  I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it looks like it would take 12 glasses of wine to get the same effect as exercise - but that's a lot of alcohol!

So that means you can't get the same benefit from skipping your workout and sitting on the couch drinking wine.  Nevertheless, a glass of red wine does have its health benefits, including reducing the risk of brain decline, blood clots, diabetes, and colon cancer - and I'm definitely not discounting its stress relieving properties.

1 comment:

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