By Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

REJOICE, lazy bones! While this might actually be too good to be true, it seems that science says you can be healthy while eating pasta and pizza. And while you’re at it, you can drink wine and burn the fat gained during the holiday binge. It seems that the perennial New Year resolution “I want to get fit” might finally come true, yes? At least according to viral posts going around on the Web. But before ordering a box of pizza or a bottle of alcohol, there is some fine print to be read under the good news.

Imagine the joy of couch potatoes who, over the holidays checked their Facebook accounts and saw a viral post that said: A glass of red wine is equivalent to an hour in the gym. A legitimate excuse to gulp down more alcohol!

The Facebook post linked to a Huffington Post article from July last year, titled “A glass of red wine is the equivalent to an hour at the gym.” The article says researchers at the University of Alberta in Canada found that the health benefits in resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, “are similar to those we get from exercise.”


Lead researcher Jason Dyck is quoted in the article as saying red wine boosts one’s heart rate.

“I think resveratrol could help patient populations who want to exercise but are physically incapable. Resveratrol could mimic exercise for them or improve the benefits of the modest amount of exercise that they can do,” he said in the article.

One fan of red wine, Paula Iana Pambuan, was skeptical about the good news she read on Facebook. As she told BusinessWorld, she’s been drinking red wine almost every night but sees no weight loss. Still, she said she’ll continue her bedtime routine and might add 30 minutes of cardio exercise to boost the red wine effect.

Red wine already has a good reputation. In a report “Is Wine Fattening” published on The Age Web site, Dr. John Dixon of Monash University’s Surgery Department in Australia said light to moderate wine consumption is associated with lower incidence of type 2 diabetes, better insulin sensitivity, and better cardiovascular profile among the overweight.

The Fine Print: Things aren’t quite as rosy as the Huffington Post story makes it out to be. It was not wine that was studied, but just one of its components, resveratrol. And no humans were involved in the study.

As the Palate Press, an online wine magazine, points out, the Alberta study (which was actually conducted in 2012) “showed that resveratrol improve the performance of exercise trained rats and — this is the kernel of truth in the 100-acre corn field of wishful thinking — researchers also found that even sedentary rats who got the resveratrol supplements had about a 25% increase in exercise performance vs. the sedentary rats eating regular chow.

“However, there’s nothing in the study advocating skipping the gym and the rats weren’t swilling Syrah, or any vino. They were being fed powdered resveratrol and in massive amounts. To get the same amount from red wine, a human would have to drink anywhere from 100 to 1,000 bottles a day.”

Women are advised to drink not more than three glasses of red wine a day while men should drink not more than five glasses. One standard drink of red wine (100 mL) contains 67 calories.

Red grapes, blueberries, peanut butter, and dark chocolate are also good sources of resveratrol, though still not as much as would have to be consumed to get the benefits seen in rats in the study.

While water has no resveratrol, nutritionist Monique Barnuevo said H20 remains the best liquid option for weight loss. “Always drink water. Sometimes, you’re not really hungry — perhaps [you’re] only bored — you only just need to drink water,” she said. Drinking water before eating curbs one’s hunger, which can eliminate 70 to 90 calories from our diet, she said.

Also, it wouldn’t hurt to hit the gym or take a brisk walk every day.

A story on the BBC News Web site said that Italian researchers claimed eating pizza regularly could reduce the risk of esophageal (throat) cancer by 59%, colon cancer by 26%, and mouth cancer by 34%.

Lead researcher Dr. Silvano Gallus of the Mario Negri Institute for Pharmaceutical Research in Milan said the magic ingredient could be lycopene, the red pigment found in tomatoes which is known to fight cancer.

“We knew that tomato sauce could offer protection against certain tumors, but we did not expect pizza as a complete meal also to offer such protective powers,” he is quoted as saying in the 2003 story that is still making the rounds online.


Fine Print: Before ordering a Hawaiian and pepperoni pizza, nutritionist Ms. Barnuevo warns that unlike the original Italian pizza, a regular American-style pizza is high in calories, saturated fat, and salt thanks to an overload of meat and cheese.

“[P]izza-lovers should not see the research as a license to indulge their fondness for the food,” says the original BBC story, quoting Carlo La Vecchia, a Milan-based epidemiologist. “There is nothing to indicate that pizza is the only thing responsible for these results.”

“Pizza could simply be indicative of a lifestyle and food habits, in other words the Italian version of a Mediterranean diet,” he is quoted as telling AFP.

While flying to Italy to get an authentic pizza may be too costly, eating food rich in lycopene like tomatoes, watermelon, guava, papaya, asparagus, and carrots — or making your own Italian-style pizza — won’t break the bank.

Who knew that the leftover spaghetti is healthier than when it’s served fresh and piping hot? The surprising revelation was first seen on BBC program, Trust Me, I’m a Doctor in 2014. A group of volunteers underwent glucose blood tests before and after eating freshly cooked pasta, cold leftovers, and reheated leftovers.

Unlike fresh pasta (which causes blood glucose to soar, leading to the release of insulin to bring it down to healthier levels, a yo-yo effect that leads to more hunger), the starch in cold pasta works more like a fiber which is digested more slowly, leading to smaller increases in blood glucose levels. Reheated pasta is even better, it seems, reducing the rise in blood glucose by 50%, according to the BBC Web site.

Dr. Chris van Tulleken, who did the experiment, said in TV interviews that the health conscious could now convert a fully loaded meal into a healthier option without altering anything but the temperature.

“Reheated carbs, including toasted bread and kaning lamig (leftover rice), are healthy options because resistance starch lowers one’s GI (glycemic index), or a type of food that affects one’s blood glucose (sugar),” said dietitian-nutritionist and consultant Cheshire Que RN, RND, RD, in a phone interview.

The power of resistant starch actually isn’t that groundbreaking. Some food manufacturers are already producing breads and pastas with it.

Fine Print: The study on resistant starch remains limited. Also, some foodies are questioning the practicality of it. Who wants to cook pasta ahead of time only to eat it the next day?

“Reheating carbohydrate sources like white rice, pasta, or toasting bread is a good practice, but ensuring blood sugar control should not be limited to that alone. Health conscious individuals should practice portion control, meal timing, and eating high fiber carbs instead of simple sugars,” said Ms. Que.

If you are to eat anything that has a high glycemic index like white rice, pasta or bread, Ms. Que said to add protein to delay the instant sugar absorption. For a healthier alternative, try whole wheat noodles or brown rice. Also eat smaller portions, say half a cup. One cup of pasta is already 200 calories.

“I am not against consuming carbs, especially rice, which is a staple food of Filipinos, but watch how much you eat to avoid overeating. Limit your intake of refined sugar commonly found in desserts and processed foods. Fruits contain the simple sugar fructose, yet are rich in nutrients and fiber,” said Ms. Que.