A large body of research about red wine often makes it seem like a miraculous elixir. Resveratrol is the key antioxidant ingredient in red wine that that has been associated with a long list of health benefits. A new red wine study suggests that resveratrol may help improve mobility in seniors to prevent falls.
The risk of falling
Falling is a dangerous risk for people as they get older. According to the American Geriatrics Society, a third of Americans over 65 have trouble maintaining their balance. Falling is the number one cause of all doctor visits, hospital admissions and emergency room visits in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control, a third of adults over age 65 fall every year. One quarter of them die in the following year, making falls the leading cause of death related to injury for seniors.
Doctors prescribe drugs for balance related conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. But there’s no medication specifically intended to prevent falling for otherwise healthy seniors. However, research from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh suggests that red wine—not normally associated with better balance—could make a difference.
A new red wine study
Previous red wine studies have suggested that consuming resveratrol may add years to one’s life. To test the idea that resveratrol could improve balance that deteriorates with age, Duquesne scientists gave groups of young and old mice a daily dose of resveratrol for eight weeks. Both groups of mice were tested on their ability to walk across a balance beam.
When the study began, the old mice had trouble walking across the beam. But after four weeks on resveratrol, the old mice crossed the beam nearly as well as the younger mice.
Neurons and dopamine
What’s more, when researchers simulated the stress of aging on neurons with dopamine, which kills brain cells, neurons treated with resveratrol survived. Lead researcher Jane Cavanaugh suggested that resveratrol either flushed out the harmful byproducts of dopamine metabolism or increased resistance in the neural cells.
“Our study suggests that a natural compound like resveratrol, which can be obtained either through dietary supplementation or diet itself, could actually decrease some of the motor deficiencies that are seen in our aging population,” said research leader Jane Cavanaugh, Ph.D., in a press release. “And that would, therefore, increase an aging person’s quality of life and decrease their risk of hospitalization due to slips and falls.”
If you tried to drink enough red wine to match the equivalent daily dose administered to the laboratory mice (700 glasses for a 150 pound person), you would pass out long before noticing any improvement in balance. But Cavanaugh said that even though resveratrol in wine has a minimal effect on the brain, a small amount could help older people avoid getting hurt in a fall.
A resveratrol supplement could increase the daily dose without the severe buzz, but Cavanaugh also said “resveratrol is best acquired through the diet.” She mentioned a comparison her team made with a resveratrol supplement and blueberries and the data shows that whole fruit may be more effect at staving off the deterioration of balance related to age. In addition to red wine, resveratrol occurs naturally in grape juice, peanuts, the skin of grapes and other dark fruits, such as cranberries and blueberries.
According to senior safety advocates, the fear of falling can lead to depression, isolation, diminished mobility, and a loss of independence for older citizens. Red wine could be the ultimate confidence builder, in more ways than one.