Add weight loss to the growing list of reasons to drink red wine. Alcohol delivers countless empty calories to your diet, but a compound in red wine has been shown to thwart the development of fat cells in laboratory research. If recent findings are confirmed, a refined form of the compound piceatannol, which is similar to resveratrol, could become an effective method to control obesity.
Red wine benefits
Resveratrol is a compound in red wine with qualities that scientists say may help prevent inflammation that leads to cancer, heart disease and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimers and dementia. When humans drink red wine the body metabolizes resveratrol into piceatannol. Researchers at Purdue University have found that piceatannol prevents budding fat cells from blooming in cell cultures.
Targeting fat cells
When you take in more calories than you burn, your body begins to store that energy in preadipocytes. Preadipocytes are immature fat cells that go through a process called adipogenesis to become full-blown fat cells in about 10 days. Kee-Hong Kim, an assistant professor of food science at Purdue, said targeting adipogenesis with piceatannol could be a way to prevent fat cell accumulation a molecular level.
Kim’s team found that piceatannol interrupts the pathways immature fat cells follow as they grow and mature. Piceatannol binds to insulin receptors of immature fat cells in the first stage of adipogenesis. The presence of the compound blocks insulin’s ability to activate genes that complete the process of fat cell formation.
Animal studies needed
Because the effects of piceatannol on fat cells have been observed only in cell cultures, it’s not yet known whether the compound could be effective in humans. Kim said he will use an animal model of obesity the next phase of his research. The challenge will be to ensure large enough concentrations of piceatannol in the bloodstream to stop adipogenesis in the body as well as it does in a petri dish.
No substitute for moderation
The potential benefits of piceatannol may be great news for red wine lovers, but it doesn’t mean you can start drinking away your spare tire. Alcohol in any form must be enjoyed moderately and there is still no substitute for a healthy diet and exercise. Instead of drinking more red wine, consider increasing your intake of rich resveratrol/piceatannol sources such as grapes, blueberries, other types of berries and passion fruit.