Field Notes: To Your Health

by Marilyn Petro, assistant professor of psychology
Some suggest that a daily glass or two of wine can be healthy for aging adults. Are the health effects real? And do they outweigh the harm of moderate drinking?

Red wine contains many compounds besides alcohol, including resveratrol. Resveratrol has been shown to inhibit cancer and extend average lifespan. But alcohol consumption has also been related to deficits in spatial learning used in navigating our environment.

Mouse and Glass of WineTo clarify the effects of resveratrol and alcohol on spatial learning, I worked with Alyssa Ranney, a senior psychology major from Kearney, to feed middle-aged mice either a low amount of alcohol alone, the same amount of alcohol with resveratrol, or neither alcohol nor resveratrol.

The alcohol-only mice had more difficulty learning and using distant cues to find a safe location than both other groups. The resveratrol-plus-alcohol mice performed no differently than the control mice. In this study, funded by the NWU Student/Faculty Collaborative Research Fund and published in Behavioural Pharmacology, resveratrol counteracted the deficits produced by alcohol consumption on the ability of mice to navigate their environment. But resveratrol with alcohol failed to produce gains against the control group.

So will a glass of red wine improve your ability to navigate your environment? Maybe not. But this study suggests it couldn’t hurt.