Red Wine - Better Eyesight and More
Doctors have long suspected a link between red wine and good health, but were unsure which compounds might be responsible for the effect. A study in mice has shed some light on this question, demonstrating the anti-aging effects of resveratrol.
What is resveratrol?
Resveratrol (chemical name: trans-3,5,4'-trihydroxystilben) is a compound found within the plants of certain red grapes, with the highest concentration occurring in the skin of the grapes (approx 50-100 micrograms per gram).
Resveratrol is a phytoalexin, that is, a chemical produced by the plant in response to an infection. It is part of the plant's defense mechanism against disease, similar to an animal's immune response.
Study in mice is promising
A report on the effects of resveratrol in mice was published in the August 2008 issue of the online journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers administered high doses of the compound to mice at midlife and found that it greatly improved their quality of life as they aged.
Several different body systems were affected. The resveratrol-treated mice had reduced cataracts and osteoporosis, better vascular function, and less of a decline in motor coordination compared to the control group. Researcher David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School noted that resveratrol "influences a whole series of seemingly unrelated diseases associated with aging."
How it works
Previous studies have shown that dietary restriction (reducing calorie intake by 30-50%, or eating every other day) can produce similar benefits. Unfortunately, it would be difficult to convince most humans to adhere to such a diet, even with proven health benefits. Also, such a diet could be dangerous for certain groups of people, such as the elderly. For these reasons, researchers have been searching for a "dietary restriction mimetic," a substance that can provide the same benefits, but without the risks and commitment of reduced calorie diet.
Resveratrol might be what they have been looking for. The compound seems to produce changes similar to those caused by dietary restriction, even when the subject is being fed a high-calorie diet. In fact, when given resveratrol along with a high-calorie diet, the mice not only experienced better quality of life, they also lived longer than the control group on the same diet.
The researchers concluded that "long-term resveratrol treatment of mice can mimic transcriptional changes induced by dietary restriction and allow them to live healthier, more vigorous lives."
In addition to the studies in mice, it has also been shown that resveratrol can extend the lives of yeast, flies, worms and fish. The effects of resveratrol on type II diabetes are also being studied in clinical trials.
Similar but more potent molecules are also being developed.
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