Messy Media: Does A Glass of Red Wine Really Equal One Hour at the Gym?


Written by Elizabeth C. Long & Jessica L. Bourdon

Messy Media is presented by the Translational Partnership for Mental Health as a part of their dissemination efforts aiming to point out “translational” research that is too good to be true and to correct how the media tends to exaggerate translational findings to garner more attention.

Each edition of Messy Media focuses on a different study or concept that was lost in translation between the journal article and ensuing media coverage.

A downloadable PDF of this article is available here.

The first edition focuses on whether a compound found in red wine can really replace an hour of exercise out at the gym…

Journal Article

“Improvements in skeletal muscle strength and cardiac function induced by resveratrol during exercise training contribute to enhanced exercise performance in rats”

What the Media Says

The Huffington Post article says that reservatol is a compound found in red wine that has been shown to have positive impacts on health. Specifically, in rats it can increase physical performance, heart function, and  muscle strength in similar ways as a workout.

What the Journal Article Actually Says

Ten week old rats were randomly divided into four groups:
(A) No exercise and standard diet;
(B) No exercise and diet supplemented with reservatol;
(C) Exercise and standard diet; and
(D) Exercise and diet supplemented with reservatol.
Exercise consisted of running on a treadmill for 60 minutes, 5  days a week, for 12 weeks.

Three Main Findings

1) It was found that endurance increased in the rats who exercised compared to those who did not (i.e. groups C and D did better than groups A and B.)
2) Among the two groups of rats who exercised, those who received reservatol had a 20% increase in performance and a noticeable increase in muscle strength (i.e. group D did better than group C.)
3) When comparing the rats who exercised and ate a standard diet to those who did not exercise and ate reservatol, the rats who exercised outperformed sedentary rats (i.e. group C did better than group B.)

The article makes no mention of wine and other sources show that one glass of wine contains  far less reservatol than the rats received in the study. The only human implications in the article suggest  possible improved glucose performance and insulin sensitivity from a lifestyle of moderate exercise accompanied by reservatol.

Bottom Line

Red wine cannot take the place of regular exercise. Reservatol, a compound found in wine, can improve exercise outcomes, but it’s unclear how much a human would have to consume to see positive results.