Red wine has long been prized for its heart-boosting benefits and potential protection against diseases such as skin cancer, thanks to the active ingredient resveratrol. But for all its positives, red wine has never exactly been considered a diet food. After all, just one five-ounce serving of vino packs around 125 calories. But for anyone who has dreamed of booze suddenly becoming the latest weight-loss superfood, there may be hope. Researchers at Purdue University have discovered a compound in red wine, grapes, peanuts, and some other foods called piceatannol, which may help block the growth of new fat cells in the body. In the long-term, researchers said in a university release, this new information may potentially help treat obesity.
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Their discovery, published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, is that piceatannol alters the gene function of fat cells during the process in which early fat cells grow into mature cells. It takes immature fat cells, called preadipocytes, about ten days to go through the several steps required to become mature fat cells, in a process called adipogenesis. Once cells have completed adipogenesis, they are more difficult to shrink through a healthy diet and fat-burning exercise. Researchers said in the same release that when piceatannol is present in the blood, adipogenesis is almost entirely stopped. If piceatannol really can keep fat cells from growing and maturing in adult humans, this could help prevent weight gain and perhaps promote weight loss in overweight adults.
This doesn’t exactly mean you can run out and grab the nearest bottle of red wine, though. Right now, the effects of the compound are just too small to promote real weight-loss results, and researchers warn that the use of piceatannol—whether through food or supplements—is still a ways off. The next step is to conduct research to see if piceatannol can be protected from digestion long enough to stop body fat gain in a measurable way.