This obese mouse is not a wine fancier
White reviews some research that seem to indicate the health improvements in mice that consumed resveratrol, an important compound found in red wine and other sources. These findings may have implications for human health.
One of the most interesting findings of the researchers regarding the qualities of red wine is the benefits of resveratrol, a compound found largely in the skins of red grapes. It came to scientific attention only four years ago, however, as a possible explanation for the "French Paradox" -- the low incidence of heart disease among the French people, who eat a relatively high-fat diet. Today, it is touted by manufacturers and being examined by scientific researchers as an antioxidant, an anti-cancer agent, and a phytoestrogen. The resveratrol content of wine is related to the length of time the grape skins are present during the fermentation process. Thus the concentration is significantly higher in red wine than in white wine, because the skins are removed earlier during white-wine production, lessening the amount that is extracted.
A last study on resveratrol done by the National Institute on Aging at Harvard Medical School reveals that its findings could, in the future, help obese humans.
To investigate the effects of the molecule on mammals, Dr Rafael de Cabo who conducted the looked at middle-aged mice fed on a high-calorie diet, with 60 per cent of the calories coming from fat. These mice shared many of the problems of humans on an equivalent diet, including obesity, insulin resistance and heart disease. The interesting finding was that the mice that consumed resveratrol alongside their food did not lose weight but they did show decreased glucose levels, healthier hearts and liver tissue, and better motor function compared with the mice on the same diet but without the supplement. They also discovered the chemical was improving the mice's life-span. The scientists estimated resveratrol reduced the risk of death in the mice by about 31%, a point similar to the lifespan for the standard diet mice. The exact mechanism of the chemical is not yet known, but the researchers believe it may be activating a gene called SIRT1, which is linked to a family of proteins thought to be involved with longevity.
David Sinclair, associate professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School, who also participated at the study said: "The 'healthspan' benefits we saw in the obese mice treated with resveratrol are positive clinical indicators and may mean we can stave of in humans age-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but only time and more research will tell."
The reactions of the scientific world to this study are positive. Professor Peter Rabinovitch, from the University of Washington, suggested that "the next step for the researchers should be to investigate the effects of the chemical in humans.” Professor Steve Bloom, head of an obesity research group at Imperial College, London, UK, said: "If we start with the idea that there is an evolutionary advantage for the life expectation of each species, and this is tied into scarcity or abundance of food. This paper is extremely interesting - it could be the breakthrough of the year, with massive possibilities for treating human beings."
By: Alison White
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