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Ask the Farmer - Resveratrol!

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                               Ask the Farmer

Today we have John Salisbury from Salisbury Vineyards who  farms wine grapes in the cool coastal region of San Luis Obispo answering a wine related question from a Winery Advisor member.


Dear Winery Advisor,

I have heard a lot about Resveratrol in wine. Can you update us on this stuff.

Randy in Riverside.

Dear Randy,
“Step right up, Ladies and Gentlemen, and get Nature’s very own magic cure-all elixir - Resveratrol! It is good for the heart and liver. Prevents obesity, sunburn & melanoma. It enhances chemotherapy; fights type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. It even slows down aging”. Sounds like an old western snake oil salesman’s pitch, right? Well, resveratrol - an anti-oxidant chemical compound found in wine as a result of the fermentation of the skin and seeds of winegrapes (especially reds) - is playing a big hand in research to cure or prevent the above diseases and others as well.
Found useful in keeping heart tissues young, resveratrol, helps prevent the heart from premature aging. Researchers have found up to three to four glasses a day may have health benefits but - as a believer of moderation in all things - one to two glasses a day might give your heart all the daily resveratrol it needs. To be sure of enough of a dosage, and for the sake of the wine industry, please make it two glasses per day – “that’s all we ask!”
Evidently, resveratrol influences the genetic aging levers. A study, in the “Public Library of Science ONE” states, “Because most age-related diseases are likely to be secondary to the aging process itself, the discovery of such compounds (resveratrol) could have a profound public health impact by reducing disease incidence and possibly extending the quality and length of the human lifespan”. I can certainly see the quality of life being better drinking wine! The study showed that resveratrol opposed 92% of age-related gene change expression. Another words, it prevented some cell changes that comes with aging.
Some scientists are experimenting with resveratrol skin patches. But why use a highly manufactured product with a big carbon footprint, and spoil the fun of drinking a good locally grown and produced wine? Better uses of topical applications are currently underway, such as the test to see how resveratrol works as a topical sunscreen. Taiwanese scientists working with such applications had this to say about their findings in an article in the “Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin”: “Resveratrol retained within the skin after topical application can be an efficient way to be a therapy or prevention of UV exposure and skin carcinogenesis”. So it may be showing up in your sunscreen spray soon.
Radiation oncology specialists are researching resveratrol as an aid in making chemotherapy more efficient. It has been shown to depolarize mitochondria, the power for cell operations, by bolstering healthy cells. They tried it with pancreatic cancer cells because they are hard to treat with chemo. The pancreas, which moves out powerful digestive enzymes into the intestines, also protects itself by rapidly moving out toxic substances including chemo drugs. The use of resveratrol exposed the cell membranes of mitochondria to radiation and also slowed down the pumping functions of the cell protein thus allowing the chemo to be more effective.
Because of the advantages of resveratrol in wine (along with the sense of well being wine consumption offers), there is discussion that, perhaps, letting chemo patients continue to drink some wine during their treatments, might be beneficial to their recovery. Normally they are advised to not drink alcohol. Type 2 diabetes also may be treated with resveratrol because of its effect upon mitochondria cells.
The general perception is that drinking is bad for the liver. New research, published in the journal “Hepatology” (6/2008) illustrates that a glass of wine a day not only does not harm the liver, but it also decreases the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) by 50%. NAFLD is a risk factor for bigger health disease such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. A study of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of 12,000 participants who normally had either a beer, glass of wine, or a shot of liquor found that spirit drinkers had a similar risk for NAFLD as non-drinkers. The beer drinkers were only 27% less likely to get liver disease. The study “found beer and sprit drinkers (and non- drinkers) were up to four times more likely to develop the disease when compared to wine drinkers”.
Add to all this that Swedish scientists report 1-2 glasses of wine a day cuts the risk of rheumatoid arthritis by 50% as compared to non-drinkers, and you can see we are definitely on to something here. Because of the “potentially transformative science” that resveratrol could be one of the big stars in curing and managing diseases, and slowing aging; large pharmaceutical companies and snapping up companies pioneering in resveratrol and other anti-oxidant research.
Farming wise we are in the dog days of summer, cutting back on irrigating, leaf pulling (to expose the fruit to the sun and allow air passage), applying the last fungicide, and watching the grapes mature and turn color. We are also gearing up, by putting up nets and bird scaring recorders, for the onslaught of the starlings, deer, and squirrels coming to eat up the crop. “Wine is the healthiest and most health giving of drinks”. Louis Pasteur.
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