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Could Red Wine Increase Your Lifespan?

I have long been a fan of the incredible polyphenols in fruits. One of the most impressive is resveratrol that is found in grape skins. Last year I posted an article describing how it could increase lifespan. Now researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have new evidence that resveratrol can increase lifespan. The key is how it helps us stay lean through its influence on a single protein -- Sirt1 -- that controls whether we store fat or shed it.

Earlier research with reseveratrol extended lifespan in yeast and tiny worms. The earlier work linked the activation of proteins called sirtuins to the well-documented life-extending effects of fasting -- in people, taking the uncomfortable step of reducing intake to half the normal daily calories could extend lifespan by up to 50 per cent while cutting the risk of diseases of old age. But just how a low-calorie intake achieves that feat -- and thus how to achieve the same end without suffering endless hunger pangs, lethargy and a low sex drive - has been a mystery.

This study gives us a glimpse of how calorie restriction works at the molecular level. And it will ultimately lead to health benefits in people. The ability of fat cells to sense famine [or short-term hunger] and release the fat is regulated by this gene. The researchers believe that fat cells also tell the body how fast to age. Ageing and obesity could be curbed by mimicking the molecular effect of famine without actual dieting.

Very exciting. However, I am convinced that it is likely that an extract of grapeskins that includes resveratrol will be much healthier than actually consuming the wine. So please don't use this study to justify consuming large amounts of wine.

Nature June 2, 2004

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