Goodness grapecious: Red wine may help prevent obesity

Red Wine

It is commonly said that red wine is good for your heart, but is it also good for your belly, underarms, and thighs? Recent studies by a team of researchers at Purdue University in Indiana show that a compound found in red wine, grapes, and other fruits could aid in blocking the formation of fat cells.

This compound structure, known as piceatannol, can be exposed to immature fat cells to prevent the cells from growing. Immature fat cells, or preadipocytes, develop over a period of 10 or more days, leaving plenty of time for the compound to move in and stop the cells’ development.

“Piceatannol actually alters the timing of gene expressions, gene functions and insulin action during adipogenesis, the process in which early stage fat cells become mature fat cells,” said Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science at Purdue University. “In the presence of piceatannol, you can see delay or complete inhibition of adipogenesis.”

The key ingredient in red wine is resveratrol, which naturally converts to the piceatannol compound as one drinks the wine. During consumption and breakdown, the alcohol and compound structure enter the bloodstream, hopefully hitting all the stubborn sections of our body where fat cells are stored. In the testing process, Kim found that piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of young fat cells and blocks the cells from growing or sticking to other cells.

“These precursor cells, even though they have not accumulated lipids, have the potential to become fat cells,” Kim said. “We consider that adipogenesis is an important molecular target to delay or prevent fat cell accumulation and, hopefully, body fat mass gain.”

In his team’s study, they are testing several compounds other than piceatannol to see if there are other beneficial structures found in natural ingredients. Piceatannol is currently present in red grape seeds and skin, blueberries, and passion fruit among others. Kim hopes to confirm the study by continuing to use an animal as a model of obesity and figuring out how to get piceatannol to stay an active structure for as long as possible so it could enter our bodies and stay effective in preventing fat gain.

It is currently unclear whether Kim’s findings will help encourage those of legal age to consume red wine for obesity prevention purposes, or if they seek to get the Food and Drug Administration to approve resveratrol or piceatannol supplements. The latter option would be helpful to those under the legal drinking age. As for now, this could be great news of added benefits for red wine lovers, but don’t get too excited and start drinking away your love handles just yet. As with all alcohols, remember to drink responsibly and maintain a healthy lifestyle and exercise before hoping for a random miracle cure.

Image Credit: Flickr / awrose