A Nature podcast today details new fascinating research about a pill that may extend lifespan by up to 20%. Resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, is the only compound that has lengthened the life of every organism its been given to: yeast, worms, flies, and now mice. And, most recently, David Sinclair of Harvard University has results that show that this compound can also combat the ill health effects of a high-fat (“McDonald’s”) diet in mammals. Mice that were given a high-fat diet as well as Resveratrol lived as long as mice that were fed a healthy balanced diet. Even more interesting is the fact that the mice were not administered Resveratrol until they were 1 year old (the equivalent of a 40-year-old human), which means that the compound is effective at later stages in life presumably after the effects of an unhealthy diet have taken a toll. According to Dr. Sinclair, the compound “improves the chances of survival by 30% on any given day.”
Post-mortem examination of these “McDonald’s” mice has revealed huge differences between those given Resveratrol and those who didn’t receive it. First, the McDonald’s mice who received none of the compound had large fatty livers (steotosis) while the ones that received Resveratrol did not. They were indistinguishable from normal livers. In addition, the cardiovascular system of the McDonald’s mice where clogged and marked by atherosclerosis, while the mice given Resveratrol looked normal and healthy. Humans exhibit these same symptoms when they have a high-fat diet, so this is very promising that his research may have direct applicability.
The hypothesis is that Resveratrol activates gene pathways which are related to longevity, specifically an enzyme called SIRT1. Mice that lack SIRT1 (knockouts) have a shorter lifespan and more developmental defects compared to wildtype mice. It has been postulated that SIRT1 proteins likely promote survival and stress resistance in times of adversity, and that the compound Resveratrol activates SIRT1 protein production.
This might help explain the so-called “French Paradox,” where regular consumption of red wine is credited with reducing the incidence of cardiovascular disease among a people whose diet includes large amounts of saturated fats. While moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages seems to be beneficial to overall health, consumption of red wine confers the most significant benefits to cardiovascular health. This new discovery might help explain why.
Press release here.