In the 1973 Woody Allen film "Sleeper," the title character wakes up after being frozen for 200 years to find that medical science has discovered, among other things, that hot fudge sundaes, cigarettes and steaks are good for your health. Shamefully, medical science has yet to conclude the same, although it does bear mentioning that chocolate has been found to contain compounds called flavonoids that have been shown to provide health benefits. Cocoa-heavy dark chocolate allows vasodilation in arteries, letting more blood flow to the heart and thus reducing the risks associated with coronary disease. Ice cream remains generally bad for you, though.
"Sleeper" and the huge headlines chocolate's health benefits receive reveal something interesting: We have a burning desire for our vices to turn out to be good for us. We'd all like to live long, healthy lives, but we also really like our bad habits too. This is why wine lovers' hearts soared when it was revealed that a compound found in red wines could extend the lives of lab animals in experiments.
Deep within a nice glass of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon or any other red wine is a substance called resveratrol. It's a non-flavonoid antioxidant polyphenol (the substance found in dark chocolate is a flavonoid antioxidant) that may have a healthy impact on heart health. Don't hit the liquor store yet, though. First, the jury's still out on precisely what kind of long-term benefits (if any) red wine provides the heart. The doses of resveratrol used in promising clinical trials on mice were quite small, but a human would have to consume about 100 bottles of wine to get the same amount [source: DeCabo]. Second, the medical community is wary of endorsing alcohol, since too much of a good thing can cause lasting damage to other organs, such as the kidneys and liver.
Still, the results that have come in are promising, and it's worth a look at resveratrol and how it could potentially help people lead longer and healthier lives. You can find that on the next page.