Gulp! Faking red wine research

COMMENTARY If you love red wine, sipping a Australian shiraz, an Oregon Pinot Noir or a silky Malbec is a wonderful way to finish a day.

What's even more special about red wine is it's lauded health benefits. Research has strongly suggested that drinking red wine in moderation can be good for our hearts. Resveratrol is a compound in red wine that is believed to help lower the risks of such deadly diseases as diabetes, heart failure and some types of cancer.

But is resveratrol really a magic ingredient? That's what some are asking after a tenured professor at the University of Connecticut, who was heavily involved in resveratrol research, was busted.

Faking research

After a three-year investigation, the university concluded that Dipak K. Das, falsified and fabricated data at least 145 times.

Das was a prolific publisher of research and one of the media's go-to persons on resveratrol. His scientific work on the red wine compound was cited frequently and his name was listed hundreds of times in Google Scholar. UConn alerted quite a few scientific journals about its findings.

After hearing of the falsified research (OK maybe it's not proven yet, but the university's report was an ominous 60,000 pages long), you have to wonder if the health benefits of red wine are a sham, too. Maybe red wine is actually about as beneficial to our health as a Cinnabon.

What's the verdict?

Pharmaceutical and nutritional companies have sunk millions of dollars into studying resveratrol. And some academics have suggested that Das has been a bit player in resveratrol research. What I found interesting in reading an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education this week about the Das fallout, was noted scientists' skepticism about resveratrol. You can read the article here: Red Wine and Lies.

The article suggested that asking whether red wine is good for you is an entirely different question from asking if resveratrol is good for you. There are studies that suggest that drinking red wine if beneficial, but they don't link that benefit to the trace amounts of resveratrol.

Now I think that calls for a toast.

Red wine image courtesy of Flickr user krossbow.