Saturday, September 20, 2014

Should you drink wine instead of working out? . . . Um, no.

The Huffington Post has an "article" that people who like alcohol but hate exercise will definitely gravitate toward, as it's titled, "Is Drinking Wine Better Than Going to the Gym? According to Scientists, Yes!"

Now, there's been a lot written generally about some health benefits from moderate wine-drinking, but I don't think I've ever seen a claim that it's better than exercising. Yet, the HuffPo article is lacking in any details and furthermore, lacks a link to the study that it cites:

Jason Dyck and other science researchers in the University of Alberta in Canada found that red wine, nuts and grapes have a complex called resveratrol which improves heart, muscle and bone functions; the same way they’re improved when one goes to the gym. Resveratrol proved to be an effective antioxidant when tested on rodents which is why scientists are planning on testing it with diabetics. If results are positive for the benefits of the complex, patient’s heart health could be improved just as much as it does when they work out vigorously.
This paragraph doesn't support the headline claim that wine drinking is better than working out, only that it may offer some of the same kind of benefits.

Yet, before you cancel your gym membership and head to the local winery, consider that one of the first comments on the article links to a more recent study, which is good news for exercise junkies and bad news for people who'd like to substitute wine drinking for exercise. This more study found that while rodents do seem to benefit from resveratrol in terms of exercise-like benefits, humans not only do not benefit but actually suffer:
• Exercise training potently improved blood pressure, blood cholesterol, maximal oxygen uptake and the plasma lipid profile.

• Resveratrol supplementation was found to reduce the positive effect of exercise training on blood pressure, blood cholesterol and maximal oxygen uptake and did not affect the retardation of atherosclerosis.
• Whereas exercise training improved formation of the vasodilator prostacyclin, concomitant resveratrol supplementation caused a shift in vasoactive systems favoring vasoconstriction.

To be fair, this new study notes that it's the first one to document the negative effect of resveratrol on humans, so we might want to wait before jumping to the definitive conclusion that wine = bad for athletes. However, the claim that wine > exercise is so counterintuitive and extraordinary that it would seem to demand very strong proof, and what we have right now is counter-evidence.

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