In November, the grape harvest rests peacefully in the fermentation vats, turning into a red wine, which is hoped to be a pleasure for the palate … and a little lift to your health.

Indeed, the benefits of a moderate consumption of red wine on health are often praised. A glass of wine per day is even sometimes recommended because of its high antioxidative properties. For instance, the powerful antioxidant resveratrol protects the heart and the arteries against deleterious effects of diet-saturated fats in mice (1). Also still unclear, its anti-aging and anti-diabetic effects in conjunction with other proteins are discussed in the scientific literature (2). Flavoids and saponins are also phytonutrients that help protecting against cardiovascular diseases (for reviews see (3, 4). Even alcohol itself, when consumed with moderation, contributes to lowering your level of bad cholesterol (5).

Studies suggest that a little bit of red wine could help prevent cancer (6) (see NIH factsheet) (for reviews see (7, 8)). Once again, resveratrol plays a role in there. When used in conjunction with radiation therapy, it enhances the efficacy of the treatment by enhancing radiation sensitivity of tumor cells. Moreover, its penetration into cancer cells lead them to death, one of the safest way of removing defect cells form the body (9, 10).

In addition, the many antioxidants found in black grapes (and thus red wine) may help prevent against oxidative damages responsible for the development of aging and degenerative conditions like Alzeihmer’s disease (11, 12).

Just as we need micronutrients in sufficient amount and proportions to be fit, plants need micronutrients such as boron, zinc and copper for their growth and health (13). Indeed, boron deficiency, for instance, affects pollen germination and thus the development of fruit (14). In this context, micronutrient studies are being conducted for wine grapes too, as it is the case at the Irrigated Agriculture Research and Extension Center of the Washington State University. In contrast to macronutrients such as nitrogen, which are measured in pounds per acre, micronutrients are needed in much smaller quantities and are measured in parts per million. WSU Scientist Joan Davenport studies the effects of individual nutrient depletion on plants in order to help the wine-grape owners to improve the yield and the quality of their harvest.

1.    Baur, J. A., et al. (2006). Resveratrol improves health and survival of mice on a high-calorie diet. Nature 444, 337-42
2.    Park, S. J., et al. (2012). Resveratrol ameliorates aging-related metabolic phenotypes by inhibiting cAMP phosphodiesterases. Cell 148, 421-33
3.    Cahill, P. A. and Redmond, E. M. (2012). Alcohol and cardiovascular disease–modulation of vascular cell function. Nutrients 4, 297-318
4.    Vasanthi, H. R., ShriShriMal, N. and Das, D. K. (2012). Phytochemicals from plants to combat cardiovascular disease. Current medicinal chemistry 19, 2242-51
5.    Hansen, A. S., et al. (2005). Effect of red wine and red grape extract on blood lipids, haemostatic factors, and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. European journal of clinical nutrition 59, 449-55
6.    Jang, M., et al. (1997). Cancer chemopreventive activity of resveratrol, a natural product derived from grapes. Science 275, 218-20
7.    Huang, X. and Zhu, H. L. (2011). Resveratrol and its analogues: promising antitumor agents. Anti-cancer agents in medicinal chemistry 11, 479-90
8.    Fulda, S. (2010). Resveratrol and derivatives for the prevention and treatment of cancer. Drug discovery today 15, 757-65
9.    Tak, J. K., Lee, J. H. and Park, J. W. (2012). Resveratrol and piperine enhance radiosensitivity of tumor cells. BMB reports 45, 242-6
10.    Fang, Y., DeMarco, V. G. and Nicholl, M. B. (2012). Resveratrol enhances radiation sensitivity in prostate cancer by inhibiting cell proliferation and promoting cell senescence and apoptosis. Cancer science 103, 1090-8
11.    Russo, A., et al. (2003). Red wine micronutrients as protective agents in Alzheimer-like induced insult. Life sciences 72, 2369-79
12.    Pasinetti, G. M. (2012). Novel role of red wine-derived polyphenols in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease dementia and brain pathology: experimental approaches and clinical implications. Planta medica 78, 1614-9
13.    White, P. J. and Brown, P. H. (2010). Plant nutrition for sustainable development and global health. Annals of botany 105, 1073-80
14.    Camacho-Cristobal, J. J., Rexach, J. and Gonzalez-Fontes, A. (2008). Boron in plants: deficiency and toxicity. Journal of integrative plant biology 50, 1247-55