Study Of Bees Shows Benefits of Red Wine May Include Eating Less
Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The adage that ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’ comes to mind when considering a recent joint study performed by Arizona State University, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences and Harvard Medical School.
For more than a decade, we’ve heard the anecdotal reports of small towns in Northern Italy or quaint villages in France where the locals eat the richest diets, throwing all caution to the wind. And what do they get for this gluttony and excess? They get some of the most balanced cholesterol figures on Earth. They get lifespans that exceed the averages of most every industrialized nation. And they get to drink wine. Lots and lots of wine.
Scientists have looked at these villagers trying to determine whether it was a genetic predisposition, a more active overall lifestyle or if it was the wine. If nothing else, the lack of a definitive conclusion led to clever marketing of red wine in the United States by vintners and wine merchants who had no qualms over utilizing pop science to move their product.
In this most recent study, researchers from the partner organizations hypothesized that drinking red wine just might provide positive health benefits and could even extend your life.
Researchers focused on resveratrol, a compound found in red wine. They found that when they administer resveratrol to honey bees, they consumed less food. Results from previous studies had shown that organisms introduced to resveratrol like unicellular yeast, fruit flies and mice enjoyed a lengthened lifespan.
As bees are social animals, much like humans, they seemed the obvious choice for the focus of this most recent study. In a series of experiments published in the journal Aging, the scientists tested the effects of resveratrol on the lifespan, learning ability, and food perception in honey bees.
“For the first time, we conducted several tests on the effects of resveratrol by using the honey bee as a model,” said Brenda Rascón, an ASU alumnus and doctoral student with Gro Amdam, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. “We were able to confirm that under normal living conditions, resveratrol lengthened lifespan in honey bees.”
Through their research, they have come to believe that resveratrol has extended the lifespan of their subjects by 33 to 38 percent. They also noted that it helped to affect decisions that the honey bees made regarding their food. It was as if the resveratrol had enacted a “moderation effect” when they ate.
In this writers opinion, however, it is important to note that there could be no disambiguation between these two outcomes. There was nothing in the report that didn’t say that the lifespan of the subjects wasn’t somehow lengthened by the change in diet brought on by the introduction of resveratrol, as opposed to granting all credit to the resveratrol, alone.
One reason I am inclined to view the results this way had specifically to do with the researchers focus on resveratrol for its antioxidant properties. The researchers were curious to find whether or not resveratrol, as an antioxidant, would act to combat free radicals which are often released during stressful conditions. These free radicals are widely believed to cause damage to individual cells, having a profound effect on how we age. The resveratrol alone, however, did not prove itself a life extender since bees under stressful conditions appeared to be unaffected by the compound.
The researchers did consider the bees’ diet, noting that: “Because what we eat is such an important contributor to our physical health, we looked at the bees’ sensitivity to sugar and their willingness to consume it,” said Amdam. “Bees typically gorge on sugar and while it’s the best thing for them, we know that eating too much is not necessarily a good thing.”
In a final experiment, they measured how much food the bees would consume if given the opportunity to eat as much sugar water as they wanted.
“Surprisingly, the bees that received the drug decreased their food intake,” said Rascón. “The bees were allowed to eat as much as they pleased and were certainly not starving – they simply would not gorge on the food that we know they like. It’s possible resveratrol may be working by some mechanism that is related to caloric restriction – a dietary regimen long known to extend lifespan in diverse organisms.”