Exercise in a bottle

Can red wine offset the negative health effects of a sedentary lifestyle? Yes, says a new study, at least if you’re a rat!

The investigators set out to discover if resveratrol – an ingredient found in red wine, could help astronauts overcome some of the adverse effects of  zero gravity. Weightlessness in space makes physical activity almost impossible for astronauts, and results in a decrease in muscle and bone mass.

Scientists mimicked the inactivity astronauts experience by hanging rats by their back legs. Half the rats received a daily dose of resveratrol, and half did not. What happened? The rats not given resveratrol experienced reduced muscle mass and strength and bone density, and developed insulin resistance – which is considered a prelude to diabetes. The ones that took resveratol didn’t experience any of these negative health effects.

Earlier studies have shown that resveratrol can be good for health, because it lowers levels of “bad” cholesterol and protects the lining of heart blood vessels. Other studies have suggested that resveratrol can help stimulate estrogen production, prevent blood clots, boost the immune system and slow aging.

So how does it work? According to the French researchers resveratrol “flips a switch” for cell metabolism that lets the cells “breath internally” – counteracting the detrimental effects inactivity has on the body’s cells.

The results don’t just apply to astronauts, since a sedentary lifestyle also limits physical activity for us normal folks.  “For the earthbound, barriers to physical activity are equally challenging, whether they be disease, injury, or a desk job,” said Gerald Weissmann, editor-in-chief of the FASEB Journal where the study was published.

However, he cautions, it’ll take more than a glass or two of wine to reach the doses of resveratrol the rats received.   All of which is good news for the oenophiles amongst us.  We apologize for cutting this story short but we’re about to get our exercise in a bottle and while we’re at it, we’ll drink to your good health too!