Can Drinking Wine Slow Down Aging?

Alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on your skin, increasing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. But some research shows that drinking red wine (in moderation, of course) can have the opposite effect.

Scientists have been exploring "The French Paradox" for decades, trying to figure out what keeps their population so comparatively healthy despite a diet traditionally high in fat, cholesterol...and wine. Several studies have suggested that red wine contains a natural antioxidant that can combat heart disease, temper diabetes, and even slow down the progression of Alzheimer's. This natural antioxidant is a polyphenol called resveratrol. It is mostly present in grape skin and seeds, which are maintained during wine's production process but removed when making grape juice.

Recently, scientists have turned their attention to how resveratrol affects skin. Some studies have shown that resveratrol can lessen the chance of skin cancerous lesions, reduce acne breakouts, and improve skin tone and texture. Advocates claim that resveratrol fights damaging free radicals which can cause skin cells to mutate and slow down cell regeneration - a crucial factor in keeping skin looking youthful. Some dermatologists maintain that drinking a single glass a day will improve your complexion and shave years off of your face.

Skeptics claim that simply drinking red wine won't give you the benefits of resveratrol, since mice in clinical trials were given much higher doses than a human could ingest. The risks of drinking too much alcohol (more than one daily glass for women, two for men) outweigh the anti-aging benefits. So, researchers have turned their attention to developing drugs that offer higher levels of resveratrol or creating a synthetic substitute.

If you're not a wine-drinker, there are plenty of ways to get resveratrol and other polyphenols. Berries, peanuts, and green teas also contain them. For now, the best way to reap resveratrol's rewards is drinking red wine in moderation and eating a healthy diet that's rich in colorful vegetables.

Sources: "Chemoprevention of skin cancer by grape constituent resveratrol: relevance to human disease?" Web. April 18, 2005. "A low dose of dietary resveratrol partially mimics caloric restriction and retards aging parameters in mice." National Institutes of Health. Web. June 4, 2008. "Pharma Seeks Genetic Clues to Healthy Aging." Reuters. Web. April 6, 2010.