If your Valentine’s Day date asks you whether you want white wine or red this weekend, think toward the color of love. New research suggests a chemical from the extracts in red grapes and red wine might help the body burn fat cells.
In a new study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, researchers exposed human liver and fat cells in vitro to natural extracts taken from Muscadine grapes, a variety of dark-red grapes native to southeastern U.S. One of the four chemicals tested, ellagic acid did something pretty cool: it significantly halted the growth of existing fat cells, while also keeping new ones from forming. As an added perk, it also boosted the metabolism of fatty acids in the liver cells.
These results seem to coincide with 2013 research conducted over the course of 10 weeks by the same co-author Neil Shay PhD, a biochemist and molecular biologist at Oregon State University, where he added extracts from Pinot Noir grapes to the daily meals of laboratory mice; he fed some of them a high-fat diet and the others a high-fat diet plus the grape extracts. The mice all packed on the pounds, which is worth noting. However, the mice who chowed on grape extracts within the context of their eating plan had less fat in their livers and lower blood sugar than the overweight mice who weren’t consuming the extracts.
That said, Shay and colleagues Liwei Gu and Soonkyu Chung, caution against thinking that tipping back wine is the latest-and-greatest fat-burning tool. This is early research, and notably, the ellagic acid did not cause the mice to lose weight. For now, there are plenty of caveats.
“There are differences between the way mice burn fat in the liver versus the way humans do,” Shay says. “We also have tested the extracts, so we can’t extrapolate and advise people that they can eat grapes or drink wine and get this benefit. [It’s] way too premature. And don’t forget, healthy or not, they are adding calories to your diet. You can overeat healthy foods, and gain weight.” Plus, not every grape varietal contains high levels of ellagic acid, so Shay says he couldn’t make a blanket statement.
So, here’s the takeaway, according to Shay: remember that a full glass of wine contains around 150 calories, and there’s never a benefit to overdoing it. However, if you’re going to drink, choose among the best of your options. Opt for wine, and think red—which research over the years, including this current study, indicates carries some benefits. “I think it’s always a good thing to remember eating in moderation, and eating a variety of foods, is a good thing,” Shay says. Wine included—enjoy occasionally!