Previous research has shown that red wine, grape skins and red grape juice are high in plant chemicals called polyphenols. These antioxidants have been shown to help the body regulate blood sugar, and may thereby help prevent or control diabetes. In the current study, researchers studied the action of grape polyphenols on a cell receptor called PPAR-gamma, which plays an important role in blood sugar regulation, energy storage and fat storage. They found that even a small glass of wine has enough polyphenols to activate the receptor at least as effectively as the diabetes drug Avandia.
The researchers also compared the polyphenol content of 12 different wines, confirming the popular wisdom that concentrations are higher in red wine.
"This is further scientific evidence that a small amount of wine really is beneficial for health," researcher Alois Jungbauer said.
He cautioned, however, that wine can be high in calories and that moderate consumption is key.
"Moderate is the equivalent of a small glass each day for women, and two for men," he said. "Our big problem is to convey the message of a healthy lifestyle because too much wine will cause diabetes and obesity."
"If you have wine then you must reduce your intake of calories from food by the same amount."
Moderate wine consumption is a characteristic of the Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to improve lifespan and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
"The traditional Mediterranean diet has shown tremendous benefit in fighting heart disease and cancer, as well as diabetes," write Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno in The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods.
"It has the following characteristics: Olive oil is the principal source of fat. The diet centers on an abundance of plant food, including fruit, vegetables, breads, pasta, potatoes, beans, nuts, and seeds. Foods are minimally processed, and there is a focus on seasonally fresh and locally grown foods."