It may sound like a dream come true for many of us, but a research study published in the FASEB Journal, suggests that resveratrol, the healthy compound found in red wine, could help counter the negative effects of being a couch potato.
The study tested the effects of resveratrol on rats under conditions resulting from spaceflight and sedentary lifestyles, and may tell researchers something about the same effects on people.
The report describes rat experiments that simulated the weightlessness of spaceflight. Some rats were fed resveratrol and others were not. The group fed resveratrol did not develop insulin resistance, muscle loss, or loss of bone mineral density, as did those who were not fed resveratrol.
Resveratrol has often been cited as the secret to the French Paradox - the fact that French people enjoy low levels of cardiovascular disease, even though their diets are rich in saturated fats and oils. Some researchers think the reason for this so-called paradox lies in France's love of red wine, which is the most important dietary source of resveratrol. Other sources include grapes, raspberries, mulberries, blueberries, cranberries and surprisingly, peanuts.
According to Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal, "There are overwhelming data showing that the human body needs physical activity, but for some of us, getting that activity isn't easy. A low gravity environment makes it nearly impossible for astronauts. For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job. Resveratrol may not be a substitute for exercise, but it could slow deterioration until someone can get moving again."
Scientists studied rats that underwent simulated weightlessness and were given a daily dose of resveratrol. The control group showed decreased muscle mass and strength, development of insulin resistance, loss of bone mineral density and lower resistance to breakage. The group receiving resveratrol showed none of these complications.
According to the researchers their study suggests that resveratrol may be able to prevent the harmful consequences of sedentary behaviors in humans.
Resveratrol is a polyphenol and acts as a powerful antioxidant suppressing "free radicals" which can cause cell damage. Various clinical trials have indicated that it may have anti-aging properties and prevent the growth of some cancers in mice, inhibit enzymes that cause inflammation, shrink tumors and increase blood flow, thus reducing cardiovascular diseases. In many cases, it has also been shown to extend the life of obese animals and help to regulate insulin sensitivity. In fact, all good reasons to enjoy a glass of red wine.