As if wine lovers needed another reason to uncork, the French paradox supplied ample inspiration for toasts when scientists first elucidated it in the late 1980s. But the seemingly contradictory observation that heart disease rates remain low in France despite the relatively high-fat diet—and the theory that the resveratrol in red wine might be responsible—was so compelling that even teetotalers began eyeing Cabs and Pinots in a longing new light.
But that was several decades ago, and these days a mention of resveratrol is as likely to raise consumers’ eyebrows as it is their wineglasses. Among the scientific community, however, resveratrol retains its mojo, as active inquiry into the benefits of the compound—a phenolic antioxidant produced naturally in more than 70 species of plants, including pine trees, peanuts, cocoa, blueberries, raspberries, and, yes, wine grapes—continues.
Notes Gene Adamski, national sales manager, Evolva (Reinach, Switzerland), “Any widely used ingredient like resveratrol tends to have its ups and downs in the nutritional marketplace over time.” That said, “I do feel resveratrol is mounting a comeback based on its proven benefits in the antiaging, women’s health, cardiovascular, skin, bone, and especially cognitive health categories,” he says. “Resveratrol science continues to grow with positive results. And our industry is starting to recognize the benefits again.”
It was the purported link with heart health, as evidence by the French paradox, that first put resveratrol on the public’s radar. But, says Dan Lifton, president, proprietary branded ingredients group, Maypro (Purchase, NY), the French paradox may, in fact, have done resveratrol supplementation little favor.
“The only thing we’d been hearing for years now is how we get resveratrol from wine, so if we drink red wine, we’re set,” Lifton observes. As a consequence, he says, “The value proposition for resveratrol supplementation got lost in the smoke of the ‘just drink wine to get your resveratrol’ message, which was incorrect.” After all, you’d have to toss back 41 glasses of red wine to get the 20 mg of resveratrol found in a typical supplement, Lifton notes.
On the other, says Shaheen Majeed, president, Sabinsa Worldwide (East Windsor, NJ), the science itself is partially responsible for resveratrol’s dimmed limelight. “Most of the previous findings were based on cell cultures or laboratory animal experiments,” he says, “with very few human studies demonstrating long-term benefits.” But with the latest research “trying to fill these gaps with well-planned human studies,” he says, “resveratrol is ready to bounce back.”
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