Red wine fends off ravages of ageing

July 4th, 2008 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  


Washington, July 4 (IANS) Large doses of a compound in red wine can ward off multiple ravages of age as trials with midlife mice have found, according to a new study. However, these improvements conferred by resveratrol - cardiovascular benefits, greater motor coordination, reduced cataracts and better bone density - don’t necessarily extend the animals’ lifespan.

The study, by a team led by David Sinclair of Harvard Medical School and National Institute on Aging’s Rafael de Cabo, further showed evidence that resveratrol mimics the beneficial effects of eating fewer calories.

In mice, they found that resveratrol induces gene activity patterns in multiple tissues that parallel those induced by dietary restriction and every-other-day feeding.

“From a health point of view, the quality of life of these mice at the end of their days is much better,” said de Cabo. It suggests that resveratrol may “extend productive independent life, rather than just extending life span”.

“I was most surprised by how broad the effects were in the mice,” added Sinclair.

“Usually, you focus on slowing down or ameliorating one disease at a time. In this case, resveratrol influences a whole series of seemingly unrelated diseases associated with ageing.”

Sinclair expected some of the effect noticed in mice would have even greater impact on humans. That’s because, unlike people, mice usually don’t die as a result of heart disease, or suffer from weakening bones.

Earlier studies showed that reducing calorie intake by 30 percent or eating a nutritious diet every other day can delay the onset of age-related diseases, improve stress resistance and decelerate functional decline, the researchers said.

Although dietary restriction has beneficial effects in humans, such a diet is unlikely to be widely adopted and would pose a significant risk to the frail, critically ill, or the elderly.

Therefore, researchers are on a quest for “dietary restriction mimetic” - or mimicking - compounds that provide some of the benefits without cutting calories.

One contender has been resveratrol that activates SIRT1, a protein linked to long life in many species, from yeast to mammals.

Indeed, studies have shown resveratrol can extend the lives of yeast, worms, flies and fish. It also improves the health and survival of obese mice fed a high-calorie diet.

Resveratrol produced changes in the gene expression profiles of key metabolic tissues, including liver and muscle that closely resemble those induced by dietary restriction, they report.

Overall, the animals’ health improved under all dietary conditions, as reflected by a reduction of osteoporosis, cataracts, vascular dysfunction, and declines in motor coordination. However, the mice lived longer only when they were fed a high-calorie diet, consistent with earlier reports.

Resveratrol treatment is already being tested in clinical trials for type II diabetes, the researchers noted, and more potent molecules with effects similar to resveratrol are also under development.

The findings of the study were published Thursday in the online edition of the journal Cell Metabolism.

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