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Wine could ‘burn fat,’ but don’t drink to lose weight

Sandro Messina/Getty Images/iStockphoto Don’t be so quick to toast a new study about wine ‘burning fat.’

Drinking red wine could help overweight people burn fat, but that doesn’t mean getting a daily wine buzz will lead to meaningful weight loss.

So says a new study, which found that an antioxidant contained in red grapes can improve liver function in people with fatty liver disease, a condition tied to obesity.

While this might translate to healthier livers for those who drink wine in moderation, researchers warn that the compound, ellagic acid, isn’t the secret to slimming down.

“We know alcohol is a double-edged sword,” says study co-author Neil Shay, of Oregon State University. “We’re not advocating that people tank up.”

Shay and colleagues from the University of Florida and University of Nebraska exposed lab-grown human liver and fat cells to four antioxidants found in Muscadine grapes. Ellagic acid — which is also found in many berries as well as walnuts and pecans — slowed the growth of existing fat cells and decreased the rate at which new ones formed.

The results suggest that eating foods with ellagic acid “may constitute a novel and effective dietary strategy to prevent and/or treat obesity and metabolic syndrome,” Shay and his team write in the study, printed in the January issue of the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

One of the team’s goals has been to match compounds in specific fruits and vegetables to certain health benefits, Shay says, noting that the study should not be interpreted to mean that drinking wine will whittle away your belly fat.

A local expert also cautioned that the findings should not be taken out of context.

“I would never recommend that someone start to drink to lose weight or burn fat,” says Lisa Sasson, an associate professor of nutrition and food studies at NYU Steinhardt.

Those who want to enjoy the purported health benefits of vino should stick with a glass or two with dinner, she said.

“If you really want to protect your liver, find a wine store that’s further away and walk further to buy the wine,” Sasson adds.

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