Red Wine Gives Fat Mice ‘Longer, Healthier Lives’

A molecule found in red wine, grapes and other fruits significantly extends the lives of obese mice and makes them healthier, according to a study by US researchers published this week.

Made famous by the so-called “French paradox” – the fact that the French, who traditionally drink red wine, suffer fewer cardiovascular illnesses despite their rich diets – the tiny molecule, resveratrol, had already shown the same benefits on worms, fruit flies and yeast.

But the study on mice is the first to show that resveratrol has survival benefits in a mammal, Harvard Medical School said in a statement.

The results of the study led by researchers at Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging were published in the latest edition of the British journal Nature.

“Mice are much closer evolutionarily to humans than any previous model organism treated by this molecule, which offers hope that similar impacts might be seen in humans without negative side-effects,” said co-senior investigator David Sinclar, a pathology professor at Harvard Medical School.

“After six months, resveratrol essentially prevented most of the negative effects of the high-calorie diet in mice,” said the other co-senior investigator, Rafael de Cabo of the National Institute on Aging.

The obese mice treated with resveratrol had a median increase of about 15 percent in lifespan, but final numbers would not be available until all the mice in the experiment had died, the researchers said. The particular strain of mice used lives about two and a half years.

Previous research on worms and fruit flies showed resveratrol had increased their lifespans by 30 percent and 60 percent, respectively.

The health benefits observed in this latest study included increased insulin sensitivity, decreased glucose levels and healthier heart and liver tissues, which “may mean we can stave off in humans age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer,” Sinclair said.

“The mice on resveratrol have not been just living longer,” he said. “They are also living more active, better lives. Their motor skills actually show improvement as they grow older.”

Sinclair is also the co-founder of Sirtris, a pharmaceutical firm that is currently conducting its first clinical trial in humans with diabetes using a formulation of resveratrol.

Harvard University has invested in Sirtris, which is not a publicly traded company.

The first discovery of resveratrol’s anti-aging properties, in 2003, was reported by Sinclair and his colleagues in Nature.

Investigators identified resveratrol while looking for compounds that activate Sir2, an enzyme linked to lifespan extension in yeast and other lower organisms.

During the past 70 years, scientists have been able to prolong the lifespan of a variety of species by restricting their normal food consumption by 30 to 40 percent.

But without Sir2, neither calorie restriction nor treatment by resveratrol increased longevity.

The mammalian version of the Sir2 gene is SIRT1, which has a similar activity to the Sir2. The study published this week indicates that resveratrol might also be activating SIRT1 in mice, as well as other known longevity pathways, the researchers said.

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