Red wine and dark chocolate, staples of the famous Mediterranean diet, have been touted to prolong life because they contain a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol.
But a new study suggests otherwise.
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Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine followed nearly 800 older adults in Italy for nine years. They found no link between the resveratrol in subjects' bodies and a reduced risk for cancer, heart disease or early death.
The results came as a surprise to some researchers because Harvard scientists had earlier found that the chemical could triple the life of earthworms -- the only creatures able to be studied since they normally only live one week.
Studies are difficult to conduct as resveratrol doesn't come easily in concentrated forms. It must be collected in a very tight, highly controlled environment, and the food substances might not provide enough of it to make a difference.
Julia Zumpano, RD dietician at the Cleveland Clinic who was not involved in the study, said consumers should wait before jumping to conclusions.
"There are a lot of studies that have really proven its benefits, so I wouldn't necessarily change their whole outlook on their way of eating just yet," Zumpano said.
The study did not look at resveratrol supplements; which Harvard researchers felt might prolong life.
The Mediterranean diet is more about eating fresh: no packaged or canned foods with preservatives. Red wine and dark chocolate should be consumed in moderation.